I first met the term ‘thought leader’ in a great little book called ‘Think, Write, Grow’ by Grant Butler.‘Think, Write, Grow’ is a slim book with a simple (Arial font ahoy) coverlet. It was this humble packaging that saw Butler’s punchy paperback banished to the back of my reading pile for some time. Until, alas, I found myself in the passenger seat of a rental car on the open roads of Turkey with nothing to read but the anxiety-inducing traffic situation unfolding beyond my windscreen. In need of distraction I turned to ‘Think, Write, Grow’. I quickly learnt that the optics of the book say nothing of the calibre of its contents.
Butler explains the concept of a ‘thought leader’. ‘Thought leader’ is one of those terms that I had heard, but had never really embraced for lack of a clear comprehension. I have since come to find it a useful classification.
A ‘thought leader’ is a person who is not only an expert in his or her field, but also has a special capacity to advance new ideas, mobilise new thinking and influence others. People like the late Steve Jobs (tech), Heston Blumenthal (cooking/ science) and Oprah Winfrey (Aha moments) come to mind, though a thought leader need not be famous. An expert in a niche field may rise to prominence as a thought leader, providing they can command the intellectual gaze of their small audience.
So this is interesting to me because I now have a name for the ‘teachers’. The people who write the books, blogs, TED talks, podcasts and presentations from which I learn my new things. Some I know of (To Sheryl, with love) and many I am yet to discover.
How thought leaders manage to communicate with influence is also of interest to me, and discussed deeply in this book. I will save those notes for another day.
To end on an aspirational note, I should mention that my motivation for this piece of writing came from Butler himself, who tells me that:
‘Writing isn’t just something you do once you have become a thought leader; it will help make you one.’
Good to know.
Thought Leader(s): Grant Butler
Source(s): Butler, G (2012) ‘Think, Write, Grow – how to become a thought leader and build your business by creating exceptional articles, blogs, speeches, books and more’, Wiley.