I Am Not A Thought Leader, And Neither Are You


I am not a thought leader, and neither are you. This also goes for all the ninjas, mavens, jedis, rock stars, and gurus. Sorry folks.

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The term ‘thought leadership’ once had meaning, but it’s been hijacked and diluted by the countless numbers of self-proclaimed [insert superlative here].

Once reserved for individuals truly transforming their respective fields, ‘thought leadership’ now extends to anyone with a strong opinion and a flair for self-promotion.

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Remember back when that term was used to describe others? Individuals transforming their respective fields who we respect, based on things like:

  • Knowledge and command of their field
  • Contributions to their field
  • Embracing risk, leading to innovative and creative new approaches
  • Dedicating time to teach and mentor, grooming the next crop of leaders in their field
  • Taking a completely different approach to traditional challenges

These were the days when thought leadership was an honor bestowed upon others based on their experience and contributions.

Nowadays the term has been cheapened. The desire to stand out in a sea of sameness has led to the prevalence of social media bios claiming “thought leadership”. Self-congratulatory titles, that frequently haven’t been earned.

Maybe we self-assign these terms in an attempt to assert influence? We forget influence must be earned, not claimed.

Let’s get back to basics.

If you ever refer to yourself as any of the above-mentioned terms, you are not. Sorry, no exceptions.

If others want to refer to you this way based on your work and contributions to your field, congratulations – you’ve earned it [but please, do not refer to yourself this way].