Are you a thoughtleader?

Thoughtleaders is one of these words that we love to say it but we use it in a sloppy way and don’t say what we mean with it. It’s a buzzword and I recently read in the Harvard Business Review that it’s one of those words that have been gaining enormous popularity over the last few decades. I thought I should bring a bit of clarity and share what I mean with thoughtleadership and thoughtleaders.

Mindy Gibbins-Klein, who is a thought leadership strategist and runs a publishing company says: ‘You can’t claim yourself that you are a thoughtleader.’ I agree with her. To be recognised as a thoughtleader others around you must see that you have the desire to be one and will to work hard to stay where you are. Being a thoughtleader means that you exercise your mind, thoughts and ideas all the time and know what’s going on in your area of expertise.

Here are some thoughts on what a thoughtleader is that can be used as a guide:

  • Thoughtleaders are experts in their subject area and other experts go to them for inspiration and to expand their knowledge and awareness.
  • Thoughtleaders take time to develop new thoughts and ideas every day. They try out their new ideas on people they know and often discuss old topics in a new context.
  • Thoughtleaders are creative about the problems they meet in life. They don’t believe in “old truths” such as “we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work so we won’t try it again”.
  • Creativity is a gift and, on a deep, personal level, people who are thoughtleaders nurture their creativity in ways that are good for their mind, heart and soul.
  • Thoughtleaders ignite their ideas by imagining the future and research. They may do this research themselves or it may be other people’s research, but they explain it well to the world.
  • Sharing is caring and thoughtleaders show the world that they care by publishing and sharing their ideas widely. You can share your ideas through articles, blogs, regular newsletters, books, webinars, videos, talks and workshops. There are plenty of ways to share your ideas; I have only named a few here. The Web is a gift and there are thousands of ways to use it to share your ideas.
  • For me a thoughtleader shares their knowledge without making it into a long sales pitch. I see many speakers at events who just try to convince the audience to purchase their products. This is tiring and not thoughtleadership.
  • Passion can often be equal to life-energy, the thing that makes you work extra hard. A thoughtleader is often driven by his or her passion about a topic and thrives on sharing this passion with others. Passion is contagious and people who meet a passionate thoughtleader will want to learn more after reading about or hearing their ideas.
  • The ethics of thoughtleadership is an area that you have to take personal responsibility for. You need to test the field and engage in conversations with fellow experts. This is why networking and connections are vital.
  • Thoughtleaders are having imaginative ideas what the future might look like. I once went to a panel discussion and there were four men who were “social media experts” and none of them dared to say what they thought the future of social media would look like, they were very blend. This is not thoughtleadership either. You take a risk my guessing what the future will look like and you are brave enough to take that risk and share your thoughts if you are a thoughtleader.
  • As with leaders, thoughtleaders are not born, they are made.
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Sofie Sandell portrait

Photographer Sandra Donskyte