“Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success.”
Somebody a few years ago called me a “thought leader”, and I was quite taken aback. It seemed then to be quite a pretentious phrase. Something that conjured up visions of being a Tom Peters, or David Maister, or De Bono….which I most certainly am not….and it still does seem to be a phrase which is generally regarded as one that is a description of the giants of business thinking.
However I have slowly come to the realisation that all great advisers in professional services are thought leaders. They are the “go to” people in their area of expertise. They inspire changes of actions, plans and behaviour. They are trusted.
They inspire others to think differently. To change course in their lives, and to achieve different things that they would otherwise not have achieved.
Clients, peers, staff, younger advisers whom they are mentoring…all are inspired by the great advisers. All are taught to think in different and new directions.
So I have concluded that all great advisers are thought leaders.
I also concluded that a major difference between the great advisers and those that remain ordinary is the willingness to accept the role, and responsibility, of being a thought leader.
When I say “accept” it, I mean that they get comfortable in their own minds with it, as opposed to having it conferred on them by others. It does seem to be pretentious at first, but once a professional accepts in their own mind that a large element of their role is to move and inspire others, rather than simply advise, it changes their approach to business and the world at large. There is a responsibility to continue educating others, and developing ideas and being innovative with solutions, and thinking more strategically about trends and implications of events and decisions.
Accepting that being a thought leader is essential to being great is what leads to a virtuous cycle of thinking more strategically, and being more willing to take the risk of speaking out first, or with what may be perceived as radically different ideas. In other words, accepting the epithet creates the responsibility of living up to it.
The professionals whom I have observed over the years who have accepted the responsibility and embrace it inevitably become great professionals who motivate many many others.
There is no doubt in my mind that advisers wanting to move from being ordinary to becoming a highly valued and great professional, must begin by accepting that their’s is a thought leadership role.
It is perhaps the very thing that separates “advisers” from salespeople.
P.S. Here is a great article on becoming a thought leader from Mashable:0