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How can I Become a Thought Leader?

How can I become a Thought Leader?

What is Thought Leadership?

Thought leadership is the ability to positively influence people by giving them, or leading them to, clear and distinct ideas that will guide them to the achievement of their goals.

Thought leadership is leadership of the highest order, since it does not rely on personal charisma, power or force, but rather on creative reason and effective communication skills.

How do we become Thought Leaders?

In order to become thought leaders we must first understand the meaning of the concept, by identifying the essential distinguishing characteristics which differentiate thought leaders from the rest of the team.

When we have identified the essential distinguishing skills and abilities that combine to make a thought leader, then we strive to learn each one.

As we acquire the special skills and abilities which are inherent in thought leadership, we evolve into the kind of person that other people perceive as a thought leader.

"Thought leader" is a term that is awarded, it cannot be claimed. Never refer to yourself as a thought leader, that name is an honour which must be awarded to you by others, not by yourself.

What are the essential skills and abilities of thought leadership?

All thought leaders share a set of key characteristics, abilities and skills, which include:

  1. Definiteness of purpose.
  2. A powerful sense of rationality.
  3. A vivid creative imagination.
  4. The ability to define abstract ideas and to explain them in simple terms.
  5. The ability to listen to what is being said and what is NOT being said.
  6. The ability to use leading questions, which elicit thoughtful responses from others.

1. Definiteness of purpose.

Thought leaders are purposeful.

Their purpose is to "Add value to others", which means that they are constantly on the lookout for ideas, concepts and methods that can enhance health, wealth, and happiness. In order to be a Thought Leader, your motives must be of a positive nature, which means you must want to help people to achieve long range, worthwhile and valuable goals.

2. A powerful sense of rationality.

Thought leaders have a strong sense of rationality.

Reason is the mental tool that ensures all our ideas "make sense" and can be applied in the real world.

Thought leaders treat all people and all problems "according to the principles of reason", because when people act unreasonably, they must eventually fail.

Rationality is the gold standard for all effective thought leaders. If a person can offer no convincing rationale for what they propose, then there would be no justifiable reason for people to listen.

3. A vivid creative imagination.

Thought leaders have a vivid imagination.

Thought leaders are able to create new combinations of ideas and images. By means of their creative imagination they generate new ways of thinking, speaking, and acting, which impact the world in positive ways.

Thought leaders do not simply repackage old ideas and claim them as new. They are more creative, and they use whatever is new to fashion innovative methods and techniques, which they believe may be of service to others, in the achievement of worthwhile goals.

4. The ability to define abstract ideas and to explain them in simple terms.

Thoughts and concepts are very abstract, ephemeral things.

Many high-level concepts such as, success, fairness, integrity and logic may be difficult to clearly define. But such concepts cannot be implemented until they are clearly defined.

So, thought leaders must develop the ability to bring specific meanings to abstract terms, so that good theory can be translated into good practice.

5. The ability to listen to what is being said and what is NOT being said

Thought leadership is not exclusively about transmitting ideas, but also about listening to other people and their ideas. Thought leaders apply their creative imagination to make use of good ideas they hear, and they use their rational mind to identify any flawed thinking.

Thought leaders are excellent at identifying unstated presuppositions, (ie concepts that are assumed, but not spoken), and they are adept at bringing unstated assumptions into the open, in order to test their validity.

For example, if someone says, "Why do I get all the bad luck?" that single statement contains the following unstated assumptions:

  • A person's fortunes are governed by luck.
  • This person gets all the bad luck.

A thought leader may choose to challenge these unstated assumptions by asking a few well targeted questions.

6. The ability to use leading questions, which elicit thoughtful responses from others.

When communicating we could make assertive statements, or we could ask questions.

Assertive statements are those which tell people that, "X is true."

Thought leaders use many assertive statements but, in addition, they will often switch to using questions, rather than making assertions.

Why do you think asking leading questions, may be a better way to influence people, rather than telling them what to do?

Could you learn to reformulate your presentation to include a series of leading questions, that will induce peoples' minds to follow a train of thought that you had previously prepared?

If yes, then what benefits would this have for you as a prospective thought leader?

The method of teaching by asking questions is called, the Socratic Method, which of course, is named after Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, who was Plato's teacher, who was Aristotle's teacher. So, if you learned how to use the same techniques perfected by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, do you think that would be helpful in your quest to become a Thought Leader?

Absolutely. Thought leaders often use "Socratic questions" as a method of teaching.

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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