The #1 Reason You’re Not a Thought Leader (Yet)

When it comes to the current state of thought leadership, it seems most people are deluding themselves.

Consider this. Dr. Fiona Czerniawska of the UK’s Source for Consulting, in a recent report entitled 2012 in Thought Leadership Statistics, concluded:

An awful lot of thought leadership continues to be really about following what other people do.

Let’s lead up to the main reason why this could be the case for you and/or your organization.

8. The accolade “thought leader” is self-adopted; no-one else thinks of using it when mentioning your name.

7. Most, if not all, of your contributions to a client/customer pain point discussion is curated; there’s nothing you’re saying that’s original or groundbreaking.

6. You haven’t fully researched what others are saying (or are likely to say) on this topic, so the best you can do is react, not innovate.

5. The focus in your organization tends to be on speedy responses, not considered reflection.

4. Everyone–including you–finds each waking moment occupied with tactics and tasks.

3. Your culture doesn’t honor, let alone reward, just sitting down and letting your mind wander.

2. The prevailing attitude being that if you’re staring out the window or (like Don Draper of Mad Men) lying on your office sofa, you’re not doing anything worthwhile.

1. You never have the time just to think.


My friend Dave Gardner asked me a while back what the difference was between a book written by a subject matter expert and one written by a thought leader. Here’s the short answer:

The expert knows what she’s going to write; it’s just a question of putting everything already stuffed in her head onto paper.

The thought leader starts with an area of discovery and uses the book development process to explore and see what new thinking emerges. Because it always does.

I’ll be posting more short articles on this topic. In the meantime, let me leave you with this quote from the writer Henry Miller, (whom Wikipedia describes as “known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of ‘novel’”), interviewed for The Paris Review Interviews’ Writers at Work series :

If, say, a Zen artist is going to do something, he’s had a long preparation of discipline and meditation, deep quiet thought about it, and then no thought, silence, emptiness, and so on–it might be for months, it might be for years. Then, when he begins, it’s like lightening, just what he wants–it’s perfect….But who does it? We lead lives contrary to our profession.

So, let me ask you this: Are you living a working life contrary to what generates true thought leadership?