A few years back, thought leadership was a cool thing. While it is still a very important task, overtime it has become an overly and incorrectly used phrase, where its true meaning and intent is being diluted. A thought leader is someone who is a “go to” person or a subject matter in a certain discipline. He / She is additionally someone who guide innovation, is able to absorb and articulate the innovation happening in house and share it as appropriate. A thought leader may or may not always drive knowledge sharing but is certainly in a very good position to do so, given the access to knowledge he has. This person plays an important role in an organization in helping drive change and bring in newer practices to promote innovation. He stays in touch with the latest in the industry, establishes relevance of such practices in one’s business and encourage the organization to adopt it. He also encourages reverse knowledge sharing, by enabling employees to write articles, blogs, speak at conferences, learn from peers in the industry, arranges out of box sessions in the organization be it technical sessions or bug bashes etc. Such a thought leader encourages employees to go over and above their scheduled tasks and empowers them with the needed support to do so. These together promote newer learning opportunities, and makes this an overall fun and productive activity.
When all of these come together, the organization is automatically grooming several such thought leaders enabling them truly add value to the project they are working on and thus elevating the organization’s status to that of a thought leader. This is not something that it difficult to embrace – it calls for the required investments, more importantly identifying the right person who can drive this in the organization to encourage this program in the true sense. However, lately, this whole concept of thought leadership is under dilution. Organizations and individuals who do not understand this holistically, work on random articles just to increase their online presence. These are articles that have been put together with information that is available online, which may not have direct relevance to what they do or may not have any actionable inputs for users to take back. Such writings not only create a huge dent on the organization’s reputation as a thought leader, but more importantly send the wrong message to a potential thought leader in the company. As someone who has been driving evangelism in varied shapes and forms over the last several years, my humble advice to anyone driving a thought leadership program is 2 things:
- Stay fully connected and preferably hands on to what is happening in your organization and in the industry
- Be fully convinced about what you write, share and propagate. Remember you are better off staying silent than propagating something that is not worthy under the name of “thought leadership”
Also, a thought leader need not be vocal all the time to prove his presence and work. At times, you are better off supporting others from the backend letting people show case their works, and driving thought leadership in its truest form of building subject matter expertise and sharing knowledge.