If you have ideas that are of value to others, you are a thought leader.
Throughout history, there have been all manner of thought leaders in every field of human initiative. Those who come immediately to my mind include Johannes Gutenberg (printing press: a combination of a modified wine press with separable lead typeface), Salomon Nathans Dentz Jr (anesthesia), Charles Darwin (natural selection), Henry Ford (assembly line for mass production), and Tim Berners-Lee (a worldwide “web”). Obviously, these and other thought leaders develop ideas that attract the interest and support of other people. An idea’s importance is determined almost entirely by the nature and extent of (a) its inherent originality, (b) the appeal of its unique benefits, and (c) its impact.
This is probably what Denise Brosseau has in mind when sharing her definition of the term: “A thought leader is defined by her or his ability to galvanize others to think new thoughts, modify the way they have always done things, and embark on new behaviors, new paths, and new actions to transform the world…[Thought leaders] change the world in meaningful ways and engage others to join their efforts. They create evolutionary and even revolutionary advancements in their fields, not just by urging others to be open to new ways of thinking but when they create a blueprint for people to follow — a method, process, guidelines, or set of best practices.” to sum up, thought leaders have strategic visibility, create exposure for their views, possess the power to persuade by leveraging their status and authority, and make a difference because they are credible and worthy of trust.
I agree with Brosseau that almost anyone can become a thought leader while acknowledging, as does she, that few people can produce a breakthrough insight comparable with a General Theory of Relativity. More to the point, almost anyone can bring their own ideas to the world, have an impact on an issue they care about, and leave a meaningful legacy of which they can be proud. What does it take? Brosseau recommends a seven-step process that she has developed over the years:
1. Find Your Driving Passion
2. Build Your Ripples of Influence
3. Recruit and Activate Your Advocates
4. Put Your “I” on the Line
5. Codify Your Lessons Learned
6. Put Yourself on S.H.O.U.T. (i.e. See Page 47, then 177-179)
7. Incite (R)Evolution
Brosseau devotes a separate chapter to each step as she explains HOW to complete it. Briefly, here is the process:
o Recognize a serious problem
o Formulate a plausible solution and attack the problem
o Make a difference that others notice
o Encourage their active engagement
NOTE: The next time you have ham and eggs for breakfast, keep in mind that a hen was involved but a pig was engaged.
o Collaborate on maximizing the impact of joint efforts to make an even greater difference
When preparing for and then beginning this process, Brosseau suggests, “Whatever problem you are solving, whatever community you are serving, whatever idea you are propagating, I encourage you to utilize the seven-step thought leadership process, not once but over and over again as your guide for moving forward. Once you’ve achieved your first [begin italics] What If? [end italics] future, do imagine another, even greater one and replicate and expand your efforts to bring that future, too, into reality.”
Brosseau makes skillful use of several reader-friendly devices when providing an abundance of information, insights, and counsel. They include checklists (both for sequences and key points), mini-case studies (e.g. “Mary Hughes and the 2012 Project” in Chapter 3), Key Initiatives (e.g. Select Your Audience and Venue, Hone Your Message, Overcome Resistance, Understand Key Pitfalls, Transform Individuals into a Community, and Start with Basics in Chapter 6), and finally, end-of-chapter “Quick Review” and “More Food for Thought” sections (Chapters 1-7). These devices serve two separate but interdependent purposes: they actively engage the reader in the flow of material, and, they facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.
Although the term “thought leadership” may connote breakthrough, transformative insights that have global impact, the fact remains that anyone who discovers and then shares a better solution to a problem or a better answer to a question is demonstrating thought leadership. Exchanges of valuable knowledge occur every day in all dimensions of human life: not only in schools, colleges, and universities or during formal business training programs but also whenever someone increases someone else’s understanding during a conversation or demonstration, informally but no less important. Partial or incomplete thoughts are like small pieces of a puzzle, When properly combined….
Before concluding her brilliant book, Denise Brosseau invites her reader to “join the conversation online, on the Thought Leadership Lab website and social media forums. Here you’ll find implementation guides, videos, and other resources you’ll have a chance to share your journey with others. We have a lot to learn from each other.” Also a lot to share.