To Be a Thought Leader, You Have to Have Thoughts

IMG_2435Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time, probably too much time, immersed in who is saying what, when, and where.  One thing I’ve noticed is that while there is being a lot written, rewritten and retweeted, I don’t see a lot of new content.  Information or opinions that make me stop and say, “that’s an original take on the subject” or, “Wow, why didn’t I think of that!”

With so many channels available it is a whole lot easier today to get noticed, but being loud, or being followed, doesn’t make you a Thought Leader.  As an executive once commented to a colleague of mine, “to be a thought leader, you have to have thoughts.” Funny, and dead-on. LinkedIn recently introduced a “thought leader” component to its news functionality. These communicators have a number of characteristics in common; they are successful, smart (or some just the flavor of the day), but beyond that, these thought leaders are distinguished by their original ideas and provocative opinions.

The explosion of social media paved the way for many more who want to position themselves in the category of Thought Leader.  Certainly an interesting ambition, but it’s not enough to share your travel schedule, last presentation or re-tweet countless business articles.  You have to add original thoughts.  Comment on why you think an article is relevant, give me insight into where you think a market is headed or what the next trend will be; and while you are at it, be relatable. Reveal your personality (but no vacation or cat videos please!).

As I write this, we’re all drowning in a sea of Top “fill in your favorite number” lists from some of the most recognized “Social Media Thought Leaders.”   Lists such as “13 ways to get more Twitter followers”, “3 reasons why YouTube videos go viral” and even “7 companies that are capitalizing on the Mayan apocalypse.” It makes me want to cry “uncle.”

While I steer clear of many of the lists, a top 10 from the Decker Communications group caught my eye. It names the Top 10 communicators of the year, and 10 of the worst, and it explains why. The conclusion is that the best communicators are not just experts in their field, they are “about something,” “informal/down to earth,” authentic,” “a story teller,” “real,” “energetic,” “funny.”

In the end, you can increase your followers by driving the amount of content you share, but to be a true Thought Leader, you have to have thoughts. Insightful, original and relevant thoughts.

Speaking of lists, I’m off to relearn the one that really counts this time of year to my kids – the 12 Days of Christmas.  Are there 7 maids a milking, or is it lords a leaping? I’m pretty sure the original has a partridge and not a beer, in a tree. Happy holidays.


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