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"Thought Leadership" is oftentimes not

“Thought Leadership” is used far too often these days. Sorry for the negativity of the following blog, but I’ve got to get it off my chest.

For business consultants and professional speakers, “I’m a thought leader” is similar to saying “I’m proud of my humility.”  You and I don’t get to call ourselves thought leaders.  That is a label that can only be attached to us by others.

According to Wikipedia (perhaps the internet’s most-cited thought-leader!), “A thought leader can refer to an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.” (italics added)

The key here is that “thought leadership” refers to an individual whose expertise is recognized by others.

I was at an association meeting recently where many of the presenters were encouraging participants to recognize they each were thought leaders. And to sell their services at a premium price that thought leadership deserves.

I spent seven years working on my doctorate and have written a best-selling book. I teach leadership at the MBA level, read more than fifty books a year and several hours of blogs and news feeds weekly.  But I also still know I am a long way from being a thought leader.

Cavalierly calling yourself a “thought leader” to increase the price you charge in the marketplace strikes me as just plain wrong.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to consultants, coaches and professional presenters selling their services to the market based on the value their clients can derive from their services.  I just don’t think that automatically qualifies someone as a thought leader.

I’m happy to bring insights to my clients that I’ve learned from others. I’m diligent to cite my sources and believe the fact that I’m bringing current relevant knowledge from beyond myself adds significant additional value for my clients.

“Thought Leadership” means just that – you have new thoughts, new research, new insights that add value to the firms or clients you serve.  Rehashing other’s insights, reading other’s books, rephrasing other’s content – this is not “thought leadership.”

How about a little less on “thought leadership” and a lot more on giving credit where credit is due? How about appreciating and acknowledging other’s thought leadership and crafting it to be the most relevant for your firm or your client?