The Point

Mar

You Are So Not the Thought Leader You Think

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donkey ass thought leader

Our story begins with a little sketch from the soon-to-be-infamous Theater of the Absurd

LORI
Welcome to Thought Leader Land. Can I help you find what you need?

PHIL
Yes, thank you. My name is Phil.
I suppose I need a thought leader on weight loss.

LORI
Perfect. Why did I know you were going to say that?

PHIL
Beats me. Maybe because I’m enormously fat.

LORI
Perfect. Well, we can definitely help. We have two thought leaders specializing in obesity arbitration. We have one prominent thought leader in physical exercise theory as well as the world’s leading mind-shaping pioneer in the area of eating less—although I’m told she’s been feeling ill, poor thing. Do you have any preferences?

PHIL
Hmm. Tough one because I’m an avid supporter of Exercise Anonymous, but I also have a tendency to eat quite a bit. Some people even think of me as a leader in the exciting new field of perpetual waistline expansion. I may need some other thought leader options.

LORI
Perfect. Well, we have a new thought leader here. The profile he wrote about himself says he’s the world’s leading thinker on magic. Let me buzz him. Ope! No need. He just appeared out of thin air. Merlin, this is Phil and he’s interested to hear your thinking, preferably leading thoughts, on magical slenderfication strategies.

Happens all the time, right?

Show me someone who calls himself a thought leader and I’ll show you a wanker.

You don’t need to show me. I can find my own thought leaders. And I have. In my travels on Twitter, I’ve seen a handful of twits, er, I mean, tweeps, burn 14 characters of their precious profile space to describe themselves as “thought leader.”

I had to know how many Twitter users actually do this. Using Tweepz, a handy and free search app for Twitter, I discovered 815 people bold enough to claim the title. Not bad, I guess. It’s a very slight slice of the very large Twitterverse.

When I stumble into a self-proclaimed thought leader, I unfollow them. Thumb down. Immediate grounds for unlike, uncircle, unsubscribe. I might even unpin ‘em if their pins weren’t so damn thoughtful.

It’s awfully pretentious to call yourself a thought leader, isn’t it? If you’re worth oodles of money, would you introduce yourself as a billionaire? Charming. Let’s say for the sake of argument, you’re unquestionably a looker. I hope you wouldn’t say, “Hello, I’m a sex symbol.” Sounds kind of unattractive, no?

So c’mon, even if you ARE a legitimate thought leader, who cares? Who’s looking for one? I can see people looking for leading thoughts, but thought leaders? It’s a turnoff. Maybe that’s just me. Feel free to disagree.

In my opinion, calling yourself a thought leader negates your credibility. It’s like a creative person telling you he “thinks outside the box.” It screams “uncreative” to me. Pitch yourself as honest and I suspect you’re a liar. Tell me your product is reliable and I can’t help wonder if you’re wrestling with a reliability issue.

What’s so special about having thoughts anyway?

Would this be some sort of unique trait? Everyone thinks, I think. Try to not have thoughts. Now that would unique.

The pursuit of thought leadership—I’m good with that.

I don’t want you to take this tirade wrong. In my opinion, aiming to be a thought leader is noble. It’s smart. In fact, in this media noisefest we’ve come to call social media, it’s downright important to pursue a goal such as this. You’re in the content marketing game to establish authority, build a tribe, and lead it. This type of marketing strategy is undeniably effective.

So go for it. Think. Lead. Publish. Share. Advise. Influence. Hell, throw thought leader parties if you want. But don’t tell me you’re a thought leader. Just be one.

Thought leadership for dummies.

How’s that for an oxymoron?

In all sincerity though, I’d like to be helpful here. I’ll be honest too. No really. Trust me.

You can take from this article, some great ideas for pursuing thought leadership as a marketing strategy. All credit here goes to Kuno Creative, an established new media agency I admire very much. They published a really useful guide, “How to Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry,” which I endorse whole-heartedly and recommend you download. If you seek a thought leader for enterprise inbound marketing, look no further. The Kuno Klan knows the territory.

Kuno’s publication defines thought leadership, explains its value, prepares you for the journey, and offers a 7-step plan, summarized like so:

  1. • Develop your personal brand and voice
  2. • Create and maintain a blog
  3. • Produce a variety of interesting and engaging advanced content
  4. • Establish yourself on social media
  5. • Answer reporter queries and other questions
  6. • Write guest articles and blogs
  7. • Speak at conferences and events 

Kuno Creative thought leader

Awesome advice. I’m trying as hard as I possibly can to follow the formula. Yes sir, I want to be a thought leader. I encourage you to do the same.

Tell me if I can help you. Tell me how it’s going. Tell me what you know. But please, don’t tell me you’re a thought leader. Real leaders are humble.

Barry Feldman
Barry Feldman, founder of Feldman Creative, is a prolific writer with 25 years of experience bringing his clients' online presence to the next level through copywriting and content marketing creation and consulting. He writes and educates clients on online marketing on The Point and on many other sites across the web. Connect with Barry on Google+.
Barry Feldman

@feldmancreative

Focused on effective online marketing #content marketing consultant #copywriter #creative director #social media advisor #rock n' roller
25 experts on #SocialMedia Marketing Tactics Worth Your Time @FeldmanCreative https://t.co/jxxcUksn68 https://t.co/Q8UDwOE99c - 2 years ago
Barry Feldman
Barry Feldman
  • julie

    It’s me…thought leader here…HAHAHA…just got a good laugh (which I needed). I envy you. I “corporate” write so I have to sit on the fence in most of my writings. You know, representing what’s happening in the industry with little opinion, political view, or rocking the boatisms. It’s refreshing to read your posts that “calls people out” in a respectful, non-threatening way. It’s like saying “Really, dude?” Thought leader? Thanks for the “real, honest, genuine” break in my morning. Next on my to-do list…start my personal blog, write with abandon, and follow all the steps in the book you mention about how to become an effective “thought leader”. Check!

    • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

      Julie, go, please go. Clearly there’s a voice in you begging to be heard. No excuses. Start your blog. Oh yeah, quit your day job too. Sounds boring.

  • L C

    Remember that old shampoo commercial that featured a gorgeous woman saying, “Please don’t hate me because I’m beautiful?” After I finished laughing at your title and then finished reading this great post, I thought about that commercial. We should BE ONE and not have to talk about it. Being a thought leader is like that; it’s like being beautiful. Talking about it is tacky. And furthermore, the hallmark of a thought leader is the inevitable criticism and blame that comes with public attention. It’s part of the deal.

  • Phil Maguire

    Oh, thanks a lot. I am now going to have go find these 815 “Thought Leaders” and see what awesome thoughts they think they are having.

    Thank you for another excellent post

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  • http://printfirm.com/ Katherine Tattersfield

    You had me until the very end. This would have been an amazing and shareworthy post if it didn’t end with a plug for that book.