I have thought that a “thought leader” was an expert in some field and when they spoke, pearls of wisdom issued forth. Recently my cynicism has resurfaced and I have become a skeptic. Particularly after reading “How to become a thought leader” by John Rampton. He posits:
In this post I’ll teach you some of the ways I became a thought leader and how you can become a thought leader in your industry:
Create your personal brand. …
Develop and manage a blog. …
Start niche. …
Locate and work with influencers. …
Build a network. …
Go beyond your own blog. …
Say something new and disrupt thinking.
In other words, how to sell yourself.
It helps if you have a pedigree, like working at Cisco, Google, Amazon, maybe a high government job, or a senior professor at an ivy league university. Then, when you talk, people listen. But what do they hear?
My take is that they hear what you say, and then an hour later do one of two things. First they forget it and tell all their friends what a great talk it was (can you say Ted Talks) or second they take it as gospel and become an acolyte
I would be suspect of either result. Most likely the thought leader has a dog in the fight somewhere and is pitching his point of view, no matter how it differs from reality. For instance:
I could become a great pitch man or thought leader for Tesla. I live on the westside in Los Angeles. There are five Teslas within a block of my home. So if I look around, and take my neighborhood as typical, I could say that Teslas were taking over the world. My neighbors love them, I hear no complaints, all is right with the world.
Reality is, however, that my neighborhood is not typical. I live in a hotbed of high tech (just a mile from “silicon beach”) and techies seem to lean toward tech marvels like Teslas. However if I travel to the inland empire or Bakersfield or Temecula, I might go weeks without seeing a Tesla and be led to believe that they are a myth.
Depending on my location, I could be a thought leader regarding Teslas, pro or con.
Of course if I was recently retired from Telsa, then my thought leadership might really be suspect.
Looking back at ”how to become…”, above, I then jump to number seven. “Say something new (in other words make something up) and disrupt thinking.”
“Latest reports say Tesla will outsell General Motors in 2020.” It is completely bogus, made up out of whole cloth, but certainly a ‘new idea’ and completely disruptive in the auto industry. Since I am a thought leader, and ‘thoughts’ begin with me, who can say I’m wrong.
I’m not saying “thought leaders” are all related to P. T. Barnum, and if they make you think about something, all the better. But do that. Think. Consider. And then make up your own mind.
BTW, the top 36 most viewed Ted Talks are mostly about personal improvement, ideas that are not basically new, and not having anything to do with disruption. So, are these thought leaders most popular because they aren’t trying to disrupt, or because they are telling people what they want, or need, to hear. Whatever it is, its personal. The hell with Teslas, tell me how a car, any car, is going to affect, for better or worse, my (and my family’s) life. In the end, its personal.