19 Jul 2009
I have my own definition of thought leadership, it goes something like this: ‘Thought Leadership is establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value. In the process you go well beyond merely selling a product or service and establish your brand /company as the expert in that field and differentiate yourself from your competitors.’
While there are many definitions I’d like to share a few. Professors Terrell and Middlebrooks of the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and University of Chicago Graduate School of Business capture part of what thought leadership is about http://tinyurl.com/nc5due They say: ‘The key strategy is to be different from competitors…They break free from “be better”, internally oriented initiatives to be different’, externally oriented strategies. Being different is grounded in providing customers with unique value that they cannot get from any other competitor.’
A RainToday.com research report (www.raintoday.com) thought leadership, published in 2006, notes: ‘You cannot go after a market without something authentic and valuable to offer, without something spun from the passion you hold for your area of expertise…and you cannot continue to teach others and sustain your business as a whole without developing an ongoing relationship with your market. One without the other just doesn’t work.’
Wikipedia also has a definition: “Thought leadership as a buzz word or jargon ‘used to describe a futurist or person who is recognized among their peer mentors for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable, distilled insights.
‘It is the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers, and the broader marketplace in which it operates.
‘Thought leadership is also an emerging discipline in its own right. Our ability to understand its core practices and then effectively apply them is key to positioning ourselves and our companies for next level growth.’
I like the second paragraph of the Wikipedia definition, but this only comes if you have first evaluated your own values, researched the deeper needs of your stakeholders/customers and then identified, sometimes in conjunction with those stakeholders, what will be important for them.
One of the common themes in most of the thought leadership definitions I have seen is that at its core, thought leadership revolves around developing a deep understanding of your business and customers and, more importantly, the needs of those customers and the broader market in which you operate.
Please send me your definition I’d love to publish it on my blog.
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