Thought Leadership

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Wikipedia defines thought leadership as ” business jargon for an entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas.”

That’s half right. It certainly is jargon.

The “having innovative ideas” part is desirable, but hardly necessary. At least as far as the Harvard Business Review is concerned. According to a blog post on its site, there are six steps towards becoming a thought leader:

1. Create a robust online presence.
2. Flaunt high-quality affiliations.
3. Give public speeches.
4. Appear on TV.
5. Win some awards.
6. Publish a book.

By that criteria, Snooki is a thought leader.

There’s always been a desire among business professionals to be seen as a thought leader. To be honest, I used to want to be seen as one, too. I’m pretty sure it was my mother’s fault. She was always telling everybody how I smart I was when I was a kid. But it truly seems to have gotten out of control since the rise of social media. 

I also talk to a lot of technology vendors who want to be seen as thought leaders in their space by their clients and prospects. I won’t tell them this, but it’s way overrated. Clients and prospects want to do business with execution leaders, not thought leaders.

But if you still want to be a thought leader, I’ll give you my guide to becoming one. HBR be damned, you don’t need six steps. Any one of  four will do:

1. Do a survey. The “insights” you will gain and proclaim about consumer attitudes and behaviors will earn you “thought leader” status.

2. Coin a term. For the record, “quantipulation” is taken. I also strongly recommend that you don’t just slap a “2.0” label on something. That ship sailed. But damn, if it didn’t earn the guy who appended 2.0 onto the word Web thought leader status. 

3. Get quoted. Years ago, I interviewed a CIO for a report I was writing. Not long after, his resume showed up on my desk for an analyst position we had open. The resume claimed that he was a thought leader because he was interviewed for an analyst firm’s report. No, he wasn’t hired. 

4. Use buzzwords. There are some people acclaimed as social media thought leaders — no, I’m not going to mention any names here — who seem to have achieved that status by spouting off meaningless platitudes about the revolutionary impact of social media. If it works for them, it can work for you.

Or, you could just become a SNITCH. 

I’m no thought leader, but I will say this: For every 1,000,000 so-called thought leaders out there, there’s only 1 real one.

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