Definition of Thought Leadership
In marketing, thought leadership is leading an audience to embrace you or your organization's way of thinking about what you do (your Thought Leadership Model) as the way to think about it.
And if you do it well, they won't consider doing business with anyone else.
This is a simple but powerful definition that includes some assumptions that merit unpacking. So, let's unpack them!
Doing thought leadership properly means you aim to respectfully influence, not just educate. It's an active role where you encourage recipients to not just understand your point of view, but to embrace it. It's important to emphasize respect: putting their needs first is what separates positive influence from manipulation. In many cases, effective thought leadership actually helps liberate people from self-limiting beliefs or other thinking traps.
Effective thought leadership leads a specific audience and there is no audience that is "too small" to escape the definition of thought leadership.
If you build an effective thought leadership model about what you do and it makes a positive difference in one person's life, then it is significant for that person and you have performed thought leadership.
In business, the audience might be a specific and narrow demographic or psychographic niche within the total customer base of their industry that the thought leading company aims to serve with a unique and liberating point of view on how to use their product.
You don't have to get "them all" to do thought leadership.
It's about your audience's thinking more than yours
It's not about the thought leader, it's about the thought leadership and what it does for the audience.
Paying more attention to the thought leader instead of the thought leadership would be like a sports fan being more interested in owner of his football team than if the team is winning.
Making it more about about the effectiveness of the thought leadership rather than the importance of the thought leader is significant. The effectiveness can increase when the focus moves from where it originated to building a robust thought leadership model that can move the thinking of a market segment.
Isn't it more powerful to focus on building the strength of the ideas and how they move people instead of just building a pedestal for the idea-maker?
A Thought Leadership Model can thrive and create greater influence when released from the originator into the wild where it can grow and develop, with many people contributing to its evolution or adapting it to different situations.
Your way of thinking about what you do
Your way of thinking about what you do can be encapsulated in or more of these Thought Leadership Models.
Focusing on such a Thought Leadership Model, as well as the path to it from your current audience's thinking, empowers more robust thought leadership that can better move a market segment to your point of view and increase your leads and sales. If you had focused instead on the identity of the thought leader or thought leading company, the ideas and their organization might not have been as properly attended to and can whither.
Interested in learning how structure-based thought leadership can help you. your company or agency, or your clients? Use the form just below to get a free consultation and let's talk!