Thought Leadership Is a Synonym for Attention
Personally, I’ve never liked the term “thought leadership.”
It signifies some exalted guru status, and my 20+ years of online content marketing suggest something much less exclusive.
Anyone can achieve business authority with content, if they truly want to. I’ve done it in several industries, starting as a complete unknown in each.
People “who had business ideas that merited attention”
Turns out, the term “thought leadership” was coined back in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine Strategy & Business (a content marketing publication itself).
Kurtzman used the term to refer to people “who had business ideas that merited attention.”
Attention. That’s the heart of the matter, isn’t it?
- If you publish valuable business information that matters to prospective customers and clients, you can gain initial attention.
- If you focus on providing that information continuously (just like a magazine), you can gain permission-based continual attention.
- And if you provide relevant solutions, you can convert those prospects into new customers and clients from that attention.
So, go ahead and consider yourself a thought leader if you’re educating and motivating people with content.
Because you’ve earned the scarcest of resources: attention.
Here’s the thing …
This type of attention is derived from authority
In the realm of content marketing, authority is demonstrated, not claimed.
Which means leaders are not born or made — they’re selected by the intended audience (much more in line with my more egalitarian experience of how content marketing works).
If you have the attention of an audience, you’re already a leader. And great leaders plan, listen, observe, inspire, and then give direction.
But most of all they continue to demonstrate, in this case by freely sharing their valuable knowledge via content.
The likable expert demonstrates in order to achieve leadership, but also to maintain it.
That means accepting the responsibility to earn leadership in the first place, which is the beginning of something powerful.
Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben (actually Voltaire) said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” but the converse is also true:
With great responsibility comes great power.
Discover great business and content ideas
Where do great business ideas come from?
And how do you come up with ideas for content to grow an audience that powers that business idea?
For me, both come from the same place. It’s the intersection of technology trends and the new human motivations that result from change.
We know that change is accelerating thanks to technology and other big seismic shifts. And while this can be unsettling, you should view it as a rich landscape of emerging opportunity.
The more things change, the more people need help … and that’s where you step in
There are a lot of people out there peddling business ideas so you can raise VC money and start the next “unicorn” company. Good luck with that, given that the vast majority fail even if you raise the money.
Truth is, most of the successful people you admire today started out as freelancers or some other client service role. And then they leveraged the business skills and insights from that starting point to build their own digital empires.
I call this the personal enterprise approach. If you take a look at my 20+ year entrepreneurial journey, it’s exactly how I’ve built progressive wealth step-by-step by spotting those technology trends and the resulting human motivations and benefits.
When you adopt this mindset, content ideas are easy. That’s because you’re naturally leading people to success through uncertain times. And that’s what thought leadership really is.