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

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

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

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

Beats me. Maybe because I’m enormously fat.

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?

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.

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.