A thought leader is an individual or firm (agency) that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. In the sciences or other highly technical fields this makes sense though I still find it mostly unhelpful. It is usually more of an indicator of ego than actual accomplishment with the so called “thought leaders” mostly (though not always) self anointed (or anointed by a small group of other self anointed thought leaders) as such.

That said when applied to other areas it makes much less sense. In this case a “thought leadership agency for other founders and C-suite executives.” In other words an agency that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded, agency. A thought leadership agency for other thought leaders. Clearly this is the place to be for thought leaders who are sick and tired of thinking so much about thought leadership, and just want to let a different thought leader do their thinking for them for once. All that thinking must get awfully tiring, especially when your constantly thinking leadership level thoughts, and not run of the mill line worker or at best middle management level thoughts. Perhaps these lazy thought leaders are simply wanting to be seen in the company of other thought leaders. But wouldn’t that make them followers? How can one be a thought leader and a thought follower all at the same time? It really blows my tiny (non thought leader?) mind. I guess I need to spend more time over in C-suite or with other founders instead of so much time in the lab, or with my clients, or in the library, or crunching numbers, or writing proposals, or papers, or doing any actual work that brings real value to my customers and thus ultimately to my business. I get it, C-suite execs bust their humps too. Believe it or not I happen to know and have even worked with some. They are all proven and tested leaders. Leaders of teams, leaders of people, leaders of things that are real and important to success in the long term (aka actual, real leadership).

This is a question I would suggest each would be thought leader ask him or herself. As many are no doubt business executives I will frame it in business terms so it will be easily relate-able

How much did you sell your last thought for? You’ve never sold a thought you say? How interesting, perhaps that should clue you in to the value of a thought on the open market. It currently sits at its historic and fixed value of zero.

But I am just being silly of course, it’s not about the value of a thought but rather it is about the intellectual and other capabilities of the person and the value he or she can bring. So what is the point of thought leadership then other than self aggrandizement and ego building?

I totally get it that it feels good to make oneself out to be something special. To be better or different than the average Joe or Jane. And if any so called “thought leader” truly is better or more talented or more skilled or more whatever than you or I, more power to him or her. I begrudge no one their talents and do not look upon anyone in a negative light because of their professional or personal success. I do get irritated though when those same persons feel the need to make up important sounding terms and invent fake categories of people for no apparent purpose other than proving to others just how great they truly are. Even worse are the ones that kowtow to them and cater to their every silly whim. The truly great leader (thought or actual) needs no such titles and seeks no such favors. They embody the ideals they believe in and practice, and egoism and self aggrandizement are concepts as foreign to them as giving up or standing down. If you want to lead then lead for real, don’t just think about it.

Author’s note: I had some second thoughts shortly after publishing this. Check out the link below for more of what I really think about thought leadership.

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Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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