Thursday, April 07, 2011

Thoughts on Thought Leaders

Everywhere I turn, another Thought Leader appears. 

Thought Leaders here, Thought Leaders there, Thought Leaders everywhere.

We’re crawling with Thought Leaders.

We are in a period of serious Thought Leader inflation.

After initial analysis, I have found three classes of Thought Leaders, but more may be uncovered over time:

1) The Self-Proclaimed Thought Leader

“I say I’m a Thought Leader, therefore, I am a Thought Leader.”

Marketing ploy? Just another loud mouth?

2)  The Thought Dictator.

I have a thought and therefore you must do what I say.  I am a leader! Follow me!

3) The Person Who Actually Thinks Leading Thoughts.

A better word for this person: visionary.

These are the innovators, thinking their sparky thoughts.  And they don’t just think about it, they do it. 

Stop following.  Start thinking.



Jeff Jackson said...

Remember 2 years ago when we were overrun with gurus? At the time the term thought leader seemed like a code word for I know what I'm talking about unlike the gurus. Now as you pointed out it appears the thought leaders term has jumped the shark.

Kathy Sierra said...

Hee-hee... Whenever I hear the phrase "thought leader", I keep thinking i must be reading an Onion story. But seriously, you must watch this presentation about a social networking site exclusively for Thought Leaders:

It is in my top ten favorite videos ;)
(especially fun for Merlin Mann fans)

Anonymous said...

When I moved into my new position a few months ago, my boss told me that I was to be a thought leader for the department. I still don't know what that means ... I just keep keepin' on...

Brent Schlenker said...

Kathy, you're a thought leader just for pointing to Merlin Mann.
And Cammy, you're a thought leader because Kathy Sierra commented on your blog post.
"...of course this is all under NDA" don't tell anyone.

Tom Gram said...

Right on Cammy! Thankfully, there also are many, many "Action Leaders" toiling away in their organizations making things happen that we just don't see. The profusion of "thought" leaders is a messy byproduct web 2.0 where everyone has a point of view and lots of them. I find much of the opinion in the learning space so overgeneralized and conceptual to be almost unusable. Maybe everyone will have their 15 minutes of Thought Leader glory, and then drift into the web 2.0 ether. Hopefully people are able to separate the word smoke from the good stuff. There is lots of both out there.


Kelly said...

I love this so much! There are so many really inspiring thought leaders out there - doing such creative things! - but the term is so easy to throw out that it's really losing its value.

In addition, thank you for being so funny!

- Kelly (@OpenSesameNow)

Simbeck-Hampson said...

Saturday morning 'chortle'...

Perhaps there should be an official award ceremony, like the Oscars but for Thought Leaders... "And the winner is..." - could even be a category for the best 'snake oil salesman'... oh, what fun!

Thanks ;)

Greg Williams said...

I think the field is wide open for "thought followers"

Greg Williams

Dennis Callahan said...

Not sure about the term thought leader either but I like the points you’re making.

#3 – my favorite part “they don’t just think about it, they do it”. Having thoughts is great but you have to do something with those thoughts.
What about another category for someone who helps lead others?

#4 The person who leads by helping others to think
This person is able to bring out the best thinking in others without telling them what to do. She/he asks lots of questions and doesn’t provide answers. People are free (and expected to) think through issues and create opportunities.

Mark Britz said...

Great points all around. I think at one time or another we are all leaders of thought...the internal thought leader inspires new ideas that impact their orgs but alas, they are often influened by others inside and outside the what they really are is a thought aggregator? - synthesizing the information and presenting it pragmatically to the benefit of others and the org. Real knowledge lies between us, in the conversations, right? Maybe its another discussion but Im curious to have folks identify who they think a Thought Whatever-ers is and why.

Cammy Bean said...

I love the Merlin Mann video -- thanks Kathy!

My big problem with the term Thought Leader is its use a marketing ploy -- I ask you to speak at my conference/webinar/etc so I label you a thought leader to ensure people come.

Don't force your thought leaders on me, man! I want to decide who's thoughts I want to pay attention to!!

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