A couple of days ago, Craig Badings of the Thought Leadership blog asked me to complete the following sentence: “Thought Leadership is _______”. My response? Fundamental. As in “thought leadership is fundamental”. Craig asked me if he could post my definition on his site with attribution and frankly I don’t know if it’s because he thought my response was stupid or brilliant or somewhere in between. Let me explain however, what I meant…
At a time in history when almost 90% of people search Google before making a buying decision you need to show up in search in a good way. To me a thought leader is someone who uses the incredible good, fast and cheap tools we have at our disposal to get found when people are looking for what they do, or, in what Google calls the Zero Moment of Truth. They use blogging and social media to attract and retain fans who either buy into their ideas or by their products.
It was Leonardo da Vinci who said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. I maintain that if you aspire to thought leadership there are only two activities you must master: finding and sharing good information. When I teach my college classes, I call this deepening your expertise and documenting your expertise. Any person who aspires to thought leadership has probably done Malcolm Gladwell‘s 10,000 hours of work to gain their expertise but if you want to be a thought leader you must continue to nourish that expertise and stay current on the things that are important in your field of study. That’s what I called deepening your expertise. The second part, documenting your expertise, simply means to use the publishing tools available on the Internet to provide social proof of your work. If you’re a great thinker who aspire to thought leadership that’s all you need to know — hence my statement that thought leadership is fundamental.
I have developed a simple workflow that I call a ‘Me’cosystem which anyone can use to establish a thought leadership position over time. All of the tools are best of breed, free or freemium, and completely cross platform down to the smart phone level. There are nine different activities in which the thought leader must engage and I outline them here:
I’ll be going into more detail in each of these stages later on in the series. Organized efficiently from the beginning to the end of the process, it looks more like this:
And again, I’ll be going into more detail in subsequent posts. All I think you really need to know at this point is that the process really does work and that it’s simple enough and cost-effective enough that even someone who does TED talks can use my system. :-)
Next week I’ll start with the analysis phase in the flowchart. Questions? Feedback?
- Twitter thought leadership definitions (thoughtleadershipstrategy.net)
- Is Your Thought Leadership Strategy Using Research Wisely? (business2community.com)
- 5 Ideas about creating thought leadership (theengagingbrand.com)
- How To Become A Thought Leader (twistimage.com)
- 5 Ways to Show Your Thought Leadership (theengagingbrand.com)
- How To Be A Thought Leader: A PR Perspective (crenshawcomm.com)
Todd, thanks for the mention. The reason I used your one word answer is simply this, content is fundamental to reaching consumers these days and thought leading content is much like content on steroids.
There is plenty of empirical research out there which shows the incredible consumption of content on social media these days. The consumer has changed the way they shop prompting me to coin a new word a few years ago – ‘contsumer’. This effectively means that consumers consume content about a product, brand or service well before they come into contact with it or the sales person. They have become ‘contsumers’ and they wield the power not the sales person because they don’t have to rely on sales people for information any longer.
The power of thought leading content is that it is new, it is insightful and it typically (if its good) goes to heart of that consumer or client’s issues or challenges. The result is it changes peoples schemas – the way we filter information – forcing/convincing us to think differently about our issue. The power of this sort of content is the trust it instils in that consumer or client about your brand and the fact that you really do get them.
Therefore I have to disagree with you about your two things of finding and sharing information to master thought leadership. Curating other people’s content will never make you a thought leader. Writers would call it plagiarism. But taking other peoples ideas and thoughts and embellishing on them and adding new insights to them is a different matter. After all isn’t that what Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Pink have done so successfully?
Rather than have this discussion in email, I think it’s much better to have it hear so that it becomes part of the post. I’d like to point out that at no time did I advocate ‘curating other people’s content’ as the sole means of achieving thought leadership, although that certainly is part of thought leadership. I mean finding in the broadest possible sense; finding on the internet is part of that but so is finding inspiration by taking a walk in the woods. I promised a fuller explanation in subsequent posts, so don’t take such a narrow view and disagree before I have fully developed my thought…