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To Lead Thoughts - Get Disruptive

It was super exciting when Liz Alexander asked me if I can choose my favorite tweet from her top selling book #Thought Leadership Tweet book and write my views on it. I chose tweet #1 which is around 'Definition of Thought Leadership' and here is what I have written. Please let me know your views on 'Thought Leadership' and what it means to you.

Following article was published at: http://leadingthought.us.com/2013/09/thought-leadership-get-disruptive/

Mahesh Baxi has spent over 20 years in the global IT services industry. He is currently an entrepeneur, consultant and author and previously worked as CEO of Compassites Software. Before that, he was Managing Director of global IT services firm, ThoughtWorks. Mahesh selected Tweet #1 from our award-winning book,#Thought Leadership Tweet. Here he explains why:

Tweet #1 is my favorite because it is very thought provoking, intriguing and illustrates how often these terms are commonly mistaken for one another. Within the companies and teams I have led, I have always stressed that aspect of thought leadership associated with inspiring disruptive innovation. From my perspective, I’ve always regarded trusted advisors and subject matter experts as more like knowledge banks than innovators.

When I think of thought leaders or thought leadership I prefer to apply those terms to people rather to companies as a whole. The primary reason being that I believe it is people who set the course for being innovative or inspiring. Consider, for example, Steve Jobs from Apple, Bill Gates from Microsoft, and John F. Kennedy the 35th president of the United States of America. What was common to these thought leaders was that they all were very innovative in their thinking. They each inspired others, in their own way, to achieve goals that most people thought were impossible. In essence, thought leadership is something which inspires innovation, be it disruptive or sustaining.

Beyond Direct Marketing Efforts

Not everyone is as visionary as Steve Jobs or JFK, of course, but I believe any passionate individual can introduce disruption over a period of time through innovation. From an organization’s point of view, you know that thought leadership is working for you when there are many inbound sales calls, with people wanting to buy your products or services that go above and beyond  your direct marketing efforts.

Here are what people within the organizations I have worked have done to establish thought leadership in the market place:

  1. Foster a culture where innovation (or innovative approaches) are encouraged and appreciated, failures are embraced and are not punished.  This, of course, is easier said than done and requires an organization-wide eco system that is backed by regular examples and clear communication to help build such a culture.
  2. Encourage people to connect with like-minded people in the industry. To establish thought leadership you need to connect with people to inspire them. This involves reaching out to others in your industry via various modes such as blogs, conferences, books etc.
  3. Don’t just talk about thought leadership – demonstrate it! Create examples and communicate through the right channels. If you are a services company, you could take very innovative approach to solving a client or prospect’s business problem, implement that approach and show results. For product companies it means creating products that are highly innovative and address market needs — ones that people can’t find anywhere else.
  4. Last but not least, remember that the journey to thought leadership is centered on the people in your organization. The culture of an organization must value every individual who brings such skill sets to the thought leadership mix.

For me, thought leadership is all about innovation and showing results through inspiring everyone around you. If positive results cannot be demonstrated over time, it cannot be considered thought leadership — because no one is following you.

Never forget that the journey to thought leadership for an individual (or an organization) is a life long journey, with many milestones on the road to success.

Note from Liz: I was introduced to Mahesh through a mutual friend via Skype. Mahesh was writing his first book at the time and wanted some insights about how to make it as compelling as possible. We chatted, found that we had many things in common and maintained the connection over a couple of years. I was delighted to finally meet Mahesh last April when I visited Pune, India for the first time. Still at Compassites at that point, Mahesh graciously invited me to speak to his team about developing individual thought leadership.


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