What exactly is thought leadership? 8 Definitions From Thought Leaders

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What exactly is thought leadership? Please share your definition, along with an example.

To help you best appreciate what thought leadership means, we asked experienced thought leaders this question for their best definitions. There are several definitions that clarify what thought leadership entails and who could be referred to as a thought leader.

Here are eight definitions these leaders shared about thought leadership:

  • Providing Expert Insights
  • Inspire Intellectual Conversation in a Particular Field
  • The Ability to Influence and Inspire and Motivate
  • Thought Leadership Lends Credibility to a Perspective
  • Thought Leadership Generates Credible Opinion
  • A Thought Leader is An Inspiration for New Generations
  • A Thought Leader is a Respected and Trusted Authority in a Their Field
  • Thought Leadership is Community Leadership.

Providing Expert Insights

Thought leadership is an approach for subject matter experts to provide insights about a particular topic, field, or industry. It answers significant questions in the minds of their target audience regarding concepts or situations relevant to their niche or industry. It takes more than one blog, social media post, or networking activity to establish yourself as a trusted figure in any field. To effectively do so, it’s best to produce deep research or publish a white paper on a subject. You have to present comprehensive data that no one else has.

Ryan Stewart, Webris

Inspire Intellectual Conversation in a Particular Field

Thought leader is a title you earn from others, not that you can give yourself. In order to be considered a thought leader, you need to be an individual who takes the time to facilitate intellectual conversation in your specific field of expertise. Thought leaders engage their communities in both a teaching and learning capacity, fostering growth and collaborations between all members of the community. You’ll earn your place as a thought leader amongst your peers once you’ve mastered the ability to connect to others and promote discussion amongst your peers.

Boye Fajinmi, TheFutureParty

Boye Fajinmi, Terkel, Pull Quote

The Ability to Influence and Inspire and Motivate

Thought leadership is the ability to influence, inspire and motivate others through your own ideas, values, and beliefs. In my definition, thought leadership is also the ability to be a conduit for your organization to communicate its brand, products, and services to the world. Thought leaders speak authentically and from the heart, which is why their followers trust their opinions and buy into their ideas. For example, I’ve been following Nassim Taleb’s work for years and have been inspired by his mission to encourage entrepreneurship and help economies become less fragile. Whether he’s writing  an academic paper, a book, or a blog, his passion for his work is evident in his writing. Because of his thought leadership and his ability to inspire, he’s been able to build a successful business selling a very useful intellectual framework to businesspeople.

Matthew Ramirez, Paraphrase Tool

Matthew Ramirez, Terkel, Pull Quote

Thought Leadership Lends Credibility to a Perspective

Thought leadership is when an individual or organization has the credibility to assert their perspective in a way that is widely accepted with regards to a particular subject. There is an abundance of noise in the modern information environment.

Who can be trusted amidst the torrent of perspectives shared on social platforms, podcasts and other forms of digital media? This is where thought leadership comes in. The established credibility of a thought leader is used to persuade those in a particular industry as well as the general public.

For example, a renowned nutritionist would be a thought leader in a discourse centered around food health. Thought leadership is a perspective that has been accepted because of the credibility that an individual or organization has developed within a particular field.

Liza Kirsh, DYMAPAK

Thought Leadership Generates Credible Opinion

Thought leadership is the ability to express an opinion with credibility based on knowledge or experience. There are authoritative voices in conversations for every subject. These voices shape the general consensus around specific topics and are deferred to instances when insights on the topic are sought out. Both individuals and organizations can be thought leaders in a particular subject. For example, the executive management team at Walmart Inc. would be thought leaders in a debate over the best methods for operating a large scale retail business. Thought leadership is a credible opinion inside of a discourse.

Sean Doherty, Box Genie

A Thought Leader is An Inspiration for New Generations

A true thought leader goes beyond educating people in the domain of their expertise, but acts as an inspiration for new generations of people to continue in their path. One great characteristic of a thought leader is their ability to distill a wealth of complex information to its simplest and most basic digestible form. Karl Sagan was a master of this and through his many books, his popular TV show, and many guest lectures, inspired multiple generations by sparking their interest in science.

Michael Burghoffer, PicoSolutions

A Thought Leader is a Respected and Trusted Authority in a Their Field

A thought leader is fundamentally someone who is respected and trusted as an authority in their field and who is skilled at disseminating information that others can use.

It all comes down to knowing the answers to the concerns your customers have. The fact that your audience sets the agenda, in this case, is crucial.

They choose what is crucial. Thought leaders don’t run from the camera. They need it—not just to be heard, but also to educate, uplift, and inspire others. The solutions you present will be taken seriously and may serve as a growth-promoting catalyst.

Joshua Tibando, Findstoragefast

Thought Leadership is Community Leadership

It’s not about being the source of information for your community. It’s about the ability to consolidate community wisdom and condense that into digestible content that everyone in the community can benefit from. In that sense, thought leadership is thought stewardship. You’re not conjuring knowledge and wisdom up from thin air. You’re simply taking bits of it from what your community knows and needs and dispensing it in a more rational, sensible form.

Liam Wilson, Lottery ‘N Go

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