Decoding Thought Leadership

Guest Column: Seasoned communications professional Taruna Gupta explains why thought leadership is important & how one should express genuine concern & put forward the human side in an AI-powered era

e4m by Taruna Gupta
Published: Jun 30, 2022 3:50 PM  | 4 min read
Taruna Gupta, Independent Consultant

Thought leadership is important. That’s what makes companies more marketable, and their products fly off the shelves. One of the biggest reputation drivers, thought leadership sets us apart from the rest. Powerful thoughts lead to powerful outcomes. That, perhaps, explains why we should care about investing in thought leadership. 

But the most intriguing question still remains, what really is thought leadership? Is it the way in which a company markets itself? Is it in gelling with the trend? Or is it in dissenting the trend? Is it in doing industry-first innovations? Or is it in taking risks and doing things differently? Well, with so many questions and possible explanations, there isn’t any perfect answer that will summarise thought leadership. It can be explained in many ways, all distinctively different from each other yet valid, at the same time. 

This is my attempt to decode how I have come to understand thought leadership and what makes some thoughts stick more than the others:

Leadership is in the thought, not in the designation 

Is our thought powerful enough? Is it relevant for people and their existence? Why should they care about what we have to say? Are we saying something meaningful or just leveraging our status to somehow get published and sell more? A voice of reason is usually more compelling than a perfectly delivered sales spiel. Credentials help; have no doubt. Experience? Counts, very much. Original research? Matters, a lot.

Let’s not be shy to share something of value, deep insights and ways of problem solving we learned from experience or through years worth of subject matter expertise. As grand as they may sound, sweeping feel-good slogans that mean nothing sound like corporate lip service to the issues that matter. Workable solutions sound better than a well-sung jingle. It’s tempting to end every byline or speech with, by the way, we also sell that. Hold on! There’s a time for that, just not right now. 

Buck the trend

Plus, one to the raging trend feels safe as there is comfort in numbers. Counter-intuitive as it might be, saying things like we mean them, however, contrarian they seem, earns us more credibility than jumping onto the bandwagon. This, of course, must be done in the right spirit and not for turning oneself into a rebel without a cause. So, if we feel that mental and emotional health is more important that productivity, then let’s go, support that, when the world around us is going gaga over efficiency and maximising output. 

Go with the future, not with the trend

From time to time, there will be an incredible urge to chime into the trend known as trend jacking. People are smart but they’re also tired after a point in time. What starts off pretty catchy and intense eventually fizzles out and no one cares except us, the PR team, if we are the ones partaking during the trend-ebbing cycle. If, however, something we say or contribute, dodges the waxing and waning nature of trends, and helps shape up a desirable futuristic state or a better-than-now tomorrow, then let’s say it. Loud and clear. Who knows, it might just spark off a trend. 

Practice before preaching

Let’s never underestimate the perceptiveness of our cordial but alert friends in media, followers on social media and other organisations that hold companies accountable for the claims they make. It’s so much more impactful and responsible to walk the talk than talk and talk. Action leadership is much more powerful than thought leadership alone. Invest in the future, in people, in disadvantaged and underprivileged, and in environmental solutions. Let work do the talking. 

Be kind, sometimes vulnerable and mostly authentic

Many big changes have been brought about by people who had the courage to stand up, speak up and expose themselves to public scrutiny. Being authentic and vulnerable increase our chances of being taken more seriously. Why? Because don’t we all value authenticity over iron-clad pretences. Own up a mistake if you must. Talk about learning from failures as much as you celebrate the wins. Express genuine concern and put forward your human side in an AI-powered era. Relax. Smile. Joke. Laugh. No one expects us be so serious all the time. 

Those were my five drops to the vast oceanic wisdom on thought leadership. Thought leadership is much more than getting byline articles published or participating in conferences. It goes beyond immediate results to create an unshakeable, solid institution for the future. As I’ve come to make anything of it, thought leadership lies in slow, consistent, hard but fulfilling process to bring about a meaningful change in the way we live and cohabit on this planet. Together. Happily. Healthily. Ever after.

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