Leadership at its core is much more than just shelling out orders and getting things done. Leadership is about setting examples and creating followers. It’s about gaining respect by giving respect, and showing a clear path to the goal. In many ways, leadership is very close to parenting, primarily because it requires the same amount of nurturing and care. Along the same lines but a wee bit different is the concept of “Thought Leadership”, though usually in a much bigger arena.
The term was first cited in 1887 when Henry Ward Beecher was referred to as “one of the great thought-leaders in America”. In the 1980s and thereafter, the term has been used pretty much regularly in various articles and journals. Professional services firms also make use of it to refer to their methodologies and research.
So, who is a thought leader? Let’s find out:
They are Experts of their Areas:
Thought leaders are experts at what they do, preach and infer. They can be trusted upon for the validity of the information they provide. They are looked upon as gurus of their fields and they have their fame, experience and history as an empirical evidence to support their stature.
They are Hardcore Motivators:
Yes, this is one of the core qualities of a thought leader. In fact, this is also a core purpose of a thought leader. They are there to motivate and instill confidence and positivity. They are majestic orators and they captivate the minds of their listeners in the most exquisite manner. When you’re listening to them, you might find yourself in a state of trance, where you whole-heartedly agree with each and every word the thought leader has to say. Such is the charm and aura they usually carry.
They are Avid Innovators:
Another key quality in a thought leader is their innovative thinking. Their out-of-the-box thinking methods combined with their expertise is what makes them a thought leader in the first place. And they keep their innovation cap on at all times. They give strong suggestions and nifty solutions to problems. They also possess exceptional problem-solving skills. With their innovation, they sometimes even change the course of history, and they are not afraid of challenging the conventional methods in place.
Thought Leadership is not a simple achievement. Years of grinding and relentless efforts need to be put in, and only then can one be positioned as a thought leader. And that’s not all. Just as the attention and respect a thought leader gets is desirable, there are considerable risks too.
As a thought leader, you have no margin of error, that’s because people constantly follow you, listen carefully to everything you say and judge them too. So, only the perfectionists usually succeed as a thought leader. Just as you’re loved and followed by a lot, you’re also envied by a lot, who are eagerly waiting for you to slip. This is why, a thought leader should be extremely careful at all times.
In the end, it all really depends on how you look at yourself, and what you’ve achieved. There are people who’ve achieved a lot, and have the potential to become a successful thought leader, but they don’t believe in themselves enough to make that last bit of effort, in transitioning themselves from a “Leader” to a “Thought Leader”. Always remember, the way others perceive you depends a lot on how you perceive yourself.