gilest.org: about, portfolio, archive, feed


Don't say you're a “thought leader”
just show you can think


A photo of a sign in front of a river. The sign reads 'Danger: deep silt'.

If you want to be good at “thought leadership”, the last thing you should do is say on your home page: “We are thought leaders,” or “We do thought leadership.”

Just declaring your organisation “thought leaders” does not make it a leader of anything, except perhaps PR.

Instead, you should actually lead with some thinking.

Start blogging or writing about what your thoughts are. It doesn’t matter if they’re half-formed or thoughts-in-progress (you can be explicit about that from the start, nobody will mind). The main thing is to show that you are capable of thinking about things, and to write clearly and simply about what your thoughts are.

Be generous with your thoughts: put them on the web. Don’t hide them behind conference fees or workshops or PDFs.

Of course you can still run conferences and workshops, and charge people fees to attend them. Because you’ve demonstrated your skill as thought leaders already, more people are likely to come along. And you can earn your money by teaching them how to think better for themselves.

I suspect in the long run, you’ll earn more money from clients banging on your door and asking you to think on their behalf. They’ll be keen to get your opinion, because they’ll have seen what you think about on the web. That’s when you know you really are a “thought leader”.

Who do I know who has done thought leadership well? Teams and people like BERG, Buckley Williams, If, Lucy Rogers, and Emily Webber.

Inevitably, it comes back to “show the thing” doesn’t it? If you consider yourself a thought leader, don’t claim that you are - show that you are.


(7 Apr 2017)