“Tell me how to do my job” is a sentence I have never heard in consulting. Unfortunately that is what most people believe is thought leadership. Crudely, people think being a thought leader is about predicting the future. I have never owned a crystal ball. So, ok please define thought leadership? I was recently ask this question by a peer and it made me think. I figured it would be good to list out my thoughts in the hope it helps others in the industry.
Not much difference between this boss vs leader and tech bigot vs thought leader
Let’s start a cult
I tell people that being a thought leader is like starting a cult. You see the value, not the technology. You see the delight, not the terminology. You are passionate about the possibilities. You are excited by the future, you have a vision, and you are looking to make an impact. Once you are here, you are just starting your journey. Just because you have thoughts does not mean you should lead.
Next up are the challenges — what you should think as opportunities. These are the “whys”. They provide context and allow you to understand how the world works (or doesn’t). Being a thought leader is about helping and fomenting change. I call it impact. Impact is scary, risky, and costly. All things most people want to avoid. Thought leaders embrace this and help people focus on the destination – value. If you cannot find, illustrate, and quantify value; then you cannot be a thought leader.
Thought leadership cannot exist without people – clients, partners, peers, or employees. People are looking for help. Successful leadership is about support, education, and alignment – not decision making. If you want to be a decision maker, be an executive. If you have no desire to communicate, collaborate, listen, learn, and interact, then don’t bother being a thought leader.
Being a Thought Leader
Being a technology sherpa isn’t luxurious or glamorous. It means facing everyone’s doubt every day. Recruiting is an every meeting exercise. Week-to-week, the herding of cats is a grind. You spend more time trying to understand other people’s perspectives then your own. You are a thought leader when people come to you about things you have no idea about and they say: “What do you think?”. When people you have hired, leave you for a higher paying job and say “thanks for inspiring me”. You will know when you are a thought leader when you see the impact. You will see the change to the business, to bottom-line, but more importantly to the people.
In writing this blog and sharing it with my friends I was asked a simple question. What is the difference between founder, visionary, or thought leader? My simple answer: the outcome. Thought leader doesn’t mean you are correct. Visionaries may never have followers. Founders may not forward looking. What a wonderful world of confusing terms 🙂
Reach out to me on @Shawn_Ennis, I love the chat more about thought leadership.