CLP Beacon - Business Issues and Solutions

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Some Thoughts on Thought Leadership

by:  Vince Ferraro, Managing Director, C-Level Partners.

This week I was I featured as one of 50 top marketing thought leaders in Brand Quarterly Magazine for 2015. (the complete list is at   I am privileged to be part of such an illustrious list of talented and accomplished marketing professionals. All of the people mentioned are experts in their respective fields.

It got me thinking about what exactly is a thought leader and how you build authority, influence, trust, and credibility - attributes that most often go along with thought leadership? What makes a thought leader different from an expert, public figure or guru? What do they say, what do they do, how t do they act and how does that translate into thought leadership? My belief is that your combined experience, accomplishments, skills, consistency, and combination of other factors (over time) make you a thought leader. Many people can claim to be an expert in a specific area. That is an internal claim.  However, true thought leadership comes externally, from people who see and watch you. Thought leadership is bestowed by the people who give and individual or institution that status.

Marketing thought leader Jay Baer once said: "A thought leader is someone with proven expertise and experience who isn’t afraid to share it with the world without direct compensation.” This is partially true; however, I also like the list of quotations on thought leadership here.

Here’s my top 7 items that are useful to judge whether you are or can become a thought leader:
  1.  Developing unique ways to look at a problem that were not considered previously.
  2.  Not being afraid to look foolish for suggesting an idea. (think Isaac Newton and the apple)
  3.  Challenging the prevailing wisdom and institutional theories.
  4. Having internal emotional resilience in light of others vehemently disagreeing with your viewpoint. Be able to defend your positions.
  5. The ability to take ideas, concepts, and explain them so even people outside your sphere understand what you are doing.
  6. Be visible on as many credible interviews, podcasts, panels, speaking engagements, TV appearances you can get. Thought leaders are able to attract an audience.
  7. Publish, Publish, And Publish! Get your ideas out there in the form of blog posts, guest posts, press releases, presentation slides, books, videos, and educational courses. Like academic intuitions, frequent and high quality content will get you noticed and respected.

There are no shortcuts to thought leadership. It comes from inside and outside your sphere of influence. What I can say this … writing and speaking are great pathways to thought leadership for you, your company or your brand. Produce content that challenges the status quo, is interesting, and thought provoking. Be willing to put your ideas and thought there and create a “smoothie” of new ideas, concepts, and theories. Though leaders are always pushing the envelope and challenging the status quo.

Whether we are a church volunteer, politician, business person, professional, company, or non-profit, thought leadership is derived from earning it.   Everyone has the ability to be a thought leader because everyone has a unique background and experiences that can be applied.  What is also interesting is that these unique diverse experiences collectively make for great teams that can conquer complex problems.  More to be said about this in the future.

If you want to continue the dialog, contact me at

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