Thought leadership isn’t what you “do” – it’s about what your work achieves

There’s all kinds of buzz out there at the moment about thought leadership. It’s been hailed as a flashy marketing tool. A way to get senior leaders engaged. There is even a thought leadership ad option on LinkedIn. Thought leadership is one of those terms that seems to mean different things in different contexts. 

So let’s get clear about what a thought leadership journey is all about for you – a driven, independent thinker who wants to build something meaningful with your life’s work.

Thought leaders vs Infuencers

We sometimes have clients come to us with this conundrum – “I want to be a thought leader, but I don’t want to act like a cringey influencer.” Influencing has in some circles become synonymous with thought leadership. To us, the two things couldn’t be more opposite, and here’s why:

Social media influencers are concerned primarily with commodifying themselves. It’s about the person posting, and exchanging that brand for social following. An influencer caters to what people want to see and consume.

Thought leaders, however, are concerned primarily with driving impact. They are successful when their ideas, their stories, and their solutions result in a real-world change. A thought leader’s role is to challenge the status quo and inspire others to do the same.

To sum up:

Influencers → sell a brand → mould themselves into a niche

Thought leaders → share ideas → create their own niche

What is the endgame?

This is really where the different flavours of thought leadership start to veer away from one another. Most thought leadership enthusiasts agree that the journey should result in a strong reputation and a loyal, engaged following.

But here’s where we get really clear about the type of thought leaders we love working with.

The endgame for them is about creating lasting impact.

Of course, building a sustainable business is part of the process. That means having incredibly thought-through concepts, a line out the door of people who want to work with you, and plenty of passive income streams (to free you up for more thinking time!)

But our favourite thought leaders are the ones who go one step further. They see the road to a thriving business and then they ask…But what is all of it for?

Profitable systems, an engaged audience, and bold ideas are the foundation. The real success is seeing it transform into something meaningful. 

Whether your work is focused on changing the working world, or shifting how organisations approach diversity and inclusion, or eliminating burnout (all actual examples of thought leaders we work with, by the way), the reason for being in business is first and foremost about driving towards something better. If that sounds like you, then just a marketing plan, an “influencer” approach, is not going to ever sit quite right with you. You’re a thought leader in the making.

Yes, there is room out there for your ideas.

The internet is a busy place. Trying to be heard – let alone listened to – amidst the noise is not easy. We won’t sugar coat it for you. But that’s exactly why thought leadership works so well.

True thought leaders aren’t following trends; they’re creating them. If you see a change that needs to happen – if there’s something that gets you fired up – then it means that no one else has cracked the code. There’s a problem, a norm, a ‘business as usual’ situation that you know could be changed for the better. It means that there is a gaping hole for you to fill with your ideas. 

Thought leadership isn’t about shouting over the noise. It’s an opportunity to form your own crowd. A whisper that hits the nail on the head is far more likely to attract interest than a blaring siren saying the same old thing. And that’s the magic of bringing your own unique ideas to the table.

Impact-driven thought leadership isn’t about feeling warm and fuzzy. It’s not about patting yourself on the back for ‘caring’. For the purpose-driven experts that we have the pleasure of working with, it’s the most strategic way to approach their long-term business communications and growth. Thought leadership structures your thinking, your decision-making, your comms strategy in a way that puts the most important thing first – what your life’s work will do for the world.

If this way of thinking is what you’re after, then let’s talk through how to build your thought leadership from the ground up. We can’t wait to see your impact.