Nearly 20 years ago I had a meeting with Jim Champy, to whom, in an act of self-adulation I had sent a copy of my first book with a note saying that we had a lot in common. Jim had just published Reengineering the Corporation, one of the best-selling business books of all time.
During the meeting Jim graciously referred to us as Thought Leaders; a term I’d never heard before. I recall thinking that writing a book had somehow given me license to carry that moniker. I was only partially right.
Fast forward 20 years and 11 books later, and it seems that becoming a thought leader is the objective of every professional.
But if you are serious about doing that then you should also be aware of the most important aspect of thought leadership; embracing the perpetual pain and discipline of learning through writing.
First off, yes, I did say pain, specifically because if it’s not painful then you’re really not stretching yourself or learning. I know that most people reading this will say “But, I like to learn.” Sure, we all do. But I’d suggest that it may be closer to the truth to say we all like to “have learned.” Pretty much anything worth learning, is going to stretch and rewire your brain. It will create new neural pathways. That’s not easy and it’s not painless.
Second, I said writing. My advice to anyone who wants to carry the mantle of thought leader with integrity is to impose a discipline on yourself of writing constantly. This is not simply keeping a journal for yourself, but rather publishing. Writing something that you know will be judged by others is the best way to force yourself to truly understand what you think you know and then to expand beyond what you already know.
Personally, I write six columns of 1500-2500 words each for Inc.com every month. Every 2-3 years I write a 250-300 page book. Sure, this open doors, creates incredible visibility, and adds credibility to my brand, but its greatest value is that it forces me to explore, research, learn, and carry the mantle of TL with integrity.
By Thomas Koulopoulos
Keywords: Management, Leadership, Marketing