In kicking off with my first blog of the year, I want to talk about Thought Leadership. It’s a term that we hear a lot, but what exactly is it? It’s defined as the expression of ideas that show you have expertise in a particular field, area, or topic.
Many people strive to be recognised as a thought leader in their particular area, which means they need not only to be knowledgeable in their chosen area but also have a passion and an intellectual curiosity for that area, along with an authentic desire to share their knowledge with others. Of course, you can’t be considered a thought leader if you are just repeating what everybody already knows to be true – so you are looking to be innovative, to join up the dots of what you know and what you can see coming down the tracks… the ability to prophesize is a great trait for any prospective thought leader.
So how do we know which thought-leaders we can trust? There are 4 factors to consider:
Credibility – Does this person have the knowledge, education, and experience to be an authentic and trustworthy source of knowledge?
Integrity – Does this person live the same values they are espousing?
Lack of Self-Interest – Is this person sharing their views with a selfish motive or with a genuine desire to share knowledge?
Reliability – Has this person been consistent in their approach and their message – do they have a track record of getting their prophecies right?
Like any prophet, a thought leader is often not recognised in their own country, company, or even in their own mind.
In Aspira, we are focused on the delivery of technology projects. We have a bunch of really smart people, working at the forefront of the industry. If I ask some of my colleagues to write a blog or a thought-leadership article for us, a common response is “what do I know? I wouldn’t be capable of doing that”. Yet if you can find a way to get that person to sit down for ten minutes and brainstorm some ideas on a topic that interests them, the ideas start flowing and the blog practically writes itself. So often the first step to becoming a thought-leader is getting past your harshest critic – yourself!
Now let’s look at thought leadership from the opposite angle. If you are reading some industry insights, which type of thinking do you want to engage with? Do you want ideas that challenge and confront your existing notions; forcing you to re-evaluate your current view of the world? Or do you want to read a comforting and reassuring analysis that confirms your view of the world is correct and that you can hold onto your existing opinions a little more tightly?
The fact is that we often lie to ourselves. We say we want to be challenged, but we nevertheless tend to seek out thought leaders that re-affirm our existing notions of how the world works and how things are most likely to play out – this is the human tendency towards confirmation bias. Whether it is conspiracy theories or political ideology, if we limit our exposure to new ideas by remaining within an echo chamber, we will never develop a fully-rounded and mature view.
So my message for the New year is – don’t be afraid to express your own views on those subjects where you have expertise and passion, and don’t limit yourself to ideas that you find comforting – seek out some alternative opinions and novel ideas. Every new idea you encounter will help you to develop your own thinking and will build up your arsenal of thought leadership topics!
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Gillian Whelan is Head of Training and Account Management at Aspira. With a background in project and program delivery, and learning and development, across a wide variety of industries, she
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