Change Thinking

Despite all the business change knowledge uncovered during the last 50 years, many seasoned change management professionals still aren’t adequately prepared to serve those trying to navigate their way through today’s turbulence. Change Thinking is an effort to have an exchange with, and be part of, a community of practitioners committed to raising the level of their game and that of the field of change execution.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

Mindfully Holding Space (free eBook)

Why Should You Want Your Competitors To Care About Character and Presence?

What Can You Gain By Incorporating Character and Presence Into Your Work?

A Shift in Blog Cadence

The Thought Leadership Environment

Could You Be a Thought Leader?

Categories: Thought Leadership

In my last post, I wrote about the archetypes of Eager Apprentices, Solid Performers, Periodic Contributors, Adept Adventurers, and Thought Leaders. I discussed the critical role each plays and introduced the Thought Leader as one who has a central role in helping our profession realize its who we are potential. In this post, I will address more specifics related to what it takes to be a Thought Leader dedicated to exploring and leveraging how we show up as part of the value we create for clients.

True Thought Leaders Are Rare

We can’t all function as Solid Performers or Adept Adventurers, nor can we all operate as Thought Leaders—and that is a good thing. Our professional community needs to reflect the full range of roles to properly serve clients and advance the craft.

My intent in writing this series isn’t to convince everyone to pursue being a Thought Leader; it is to call out those with this predisposition and ask that you come forward and become more visibly engaged. Thought Leaders spend considerable time and energy pondering new observations and sharing their perspectives in coaching/mentoring relationships, speeches, writings, etc. If there were too many active at this level there wouldn’t be enough practitioners left to benefit from all their wisdom.

There are change facilitators in our ranks who have not yet gravitated to Thought Leader status (but will), and some who are not cut out for it but still serve their clients and help mature our profession in their own way. This is a designation that, by definition, will always represent a small portion of those in our field. I personally know only a few senior practitioners whom I view as Thought Leaders who attend to who we are issues specifically within the change execution profession. Among them are Linda and Dean Anderson, and Mel Toomey. I’m not suggesting these are the only ones out there—they are just practitioners of this nature with whom I’m most familiar.

There are plenty of contributors to who we are perspectives in related fields (counseling, coaching, education, and even our closest relative, organizational development) that change agents have borrowed from over the years. However, Thought Leaders who have broken new who we are ground specifically intended for organizational change practitioners are rare, and that is the point of this blog series.

Why are there so few? First, there aren’t many Thought Leaders in general, much less those attending to who we are issues. Not everyone has the foundational elements needed for such a role. But, beyond the basic prerequisites is the weight of the role itself. The demands are high and call for a commitment to both client work and the present and future of our profession. Thought Leaders’ laboratories are the organizations in which they practice their craft, whether as internal agents or external consultants. As such, every day, they must focus on the changes they are assigned to support, while also remaining vigilant for any new observation, emerging pattern, or insight that could help further the profession’s growth.

These are the requirements of any Thought Leader. The focus for this writing, however, is the need for more pioneers in the who we are space, so let’s take a closer look at some of the unique features of those who push the envelope regarding this aspect of practicing our craft.

  • Thought Leaders who pursue how our inner nature impacts client effectiveness are stretching the frontiers of where our hearts intersect with our heads. At those outer limits, their perspectives can sometimes be fascinating and motivating, but other times, they can make us feel uncomfortable and threatened. Their intent isn’t to unnerve us for its own sake, but to disrupt our “status-quo” thinking about the role our character and presence plays in our work. By their standards, if the practitioners who follow them aren’t periodically challenged by what they have to say, they shouldn’t be viewed as cutting-edge thinkers. As they see it, their role calls for them to uncover unfamiliar concerns, probe into subjects that are typically avoided, and encourage new views by questioning established assumptions.
  • Even when they periodically achieve a degree of alignment between their character and presence, Thought Leaders don’t believe they have garnered all the wisdom about who they are that will be called for in the future. For this reason, they tend to approach most situations with a beginner’s mind, bringing to bear all they have learned while remaining open to totally new insights and understanding.
  • Thought leadership is not a title one can bestow upon oneself; it is a recognition granted by one’s peers. As such, it is not the result of a singular breakthrough, but rather is achieved over time. In respect to what he did (not who he was), consider Steve Jobs. At the outset of his career, he was seen as a creative thinker, but not a Thought Leader. (In those days, he was more of a cross between Adaptive Adventurer and Periodic Contributor.) It took many years, some highly visible failures, and the successful introduction of not only many new products but the formulation of entire new markets before he was bestowed the title of Thought Leader.
  • Who we are Thought Leaders surface slowly, usually after many years of honing their knowledge base and skills, and through introspective exploration. But they used this time to share generously their experiences, insights, and lessons learned, instead of just becoming proficient in the craft.
  • Thought leadership is about advancing the profession, not just one’s self or firm. As such, Thought Leaders offer their time and wisdom to all who care to take it in. Despite the often high-pressure demands from their clients, they dedicate themselves to keeping a watchful eye for new implications, documenting their observations, thinking through possibilities that go beyond the client situation, and sharing the results with others in the professional community. They also make these contributions to advancements in the field knowing that much of what they make available broadly will be applied later without attribution back to them.  
  • By definition, thought leadership is not stagnant. The dynamic pace of the world around us demands continuing experimentation, innovation, and growth. There are those who come up with that one “great new idea” that makes a difference, and then step back to bask in the glory of the recognition that it earns them. This is not the pattern for true pioneers in the who we are space of change execution. Thought Leaders in this space are usually long-term players who measure their tenure in the field in decades, not years. Throughout these long runs, they are consistently prolific in their contributions to and guidance of practitioners interested in incorporating who we are aspects into how they practice the craft.
  • Because thought leadership is granted from the outside, it can only be earned if the insights and understanding results are made broadly available. If they are kept under wraps, only to be shared with those who pay the price of admission, they will never gain the required recognition. Thought Leaders do not just share their learning about character and presence with their coworkers and collaborators, they make them available to competitors as well.

This doesn’t make sense in the classic, win-lose business model mindset, where intellectual property is protected from rival access. Thought Leaders, however, carry two responsibilities: one is centered on their own practice or business and one is focused on advancing the profession. Balancing these influences can present conflicting priorities, but generally speaking, Thought Leaders disseminate what they learn openly and broadly.

They do so because, in most cases, they don’t think in terms of zero sum situations. They believe that it is good for their own proprietary interest for the overall profession to raise its game.

-   Thought Leaders are dedicated to transferring capability. It is fulfilling for them to see recipients of their work (clients, colleagues, and competitors) not only apply what was shared but take it to a level beyond what the Thought Leader envisioned. When this happens, not only does the professional community benefit, but the Thought Leader profits by becoming a recipient of the learning received back from his or her former student and is freed to address more sophisticated who we are challenges.

-   Finally, serving as a Thought Leader demands both vulnerability and self-confidence. It involves a consistent commitment to experimentation that is fueled by new insights, understandings, and the questions they raise. The gains that are enjoyed are punctuated by plenty of mistakes—some small, some major—and learning from them. In this way, thought leadership is not for the meek or the grandiose.

-   While there is acceptance of the accountability that comes with others being influenced by their perspectives, Thought Leaders are also humbled by the responsibility that comes with that label and never takes it for granted. They know that the designation people have conferred on them must be re-earned every day.

Some environments nurture thought leadership, while others stifle it. In the last post of this series, I will address what is required to cultivate thought leadership.

Posted on: September 03, 2013 08:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Five Archetypes of Thought Leadership

Categories: Thought Leadership

So far in this series, I have stressed the need for an increased focus on thought leadership regarding character and presence (post 1). I also introduced five archetypes—Eager Apprentices, Solid Performers, Adept Adventurers, Periodic Contributors, and Thought Leaders—as part of a benefit continuum that reflects the value change agents provide those they serve. In this post, I will explain how each archetype exemplifies a different way in which character and presence play a role in the practice of our craft.

Eager Apprentices

Becoming an Eager Apprentice of who we are has nothing to do with a person’s age or length of time serving as a professional change facilitator. This level is engaged whenever practitioners first recognize the potential that character and presence can play in their work—and commit to developing that side of themselves along with their technical competence (concepts, tools, and techniques). This awareness may occur early in their career while learning the basics of what we do, or after many years in the profession, long after technical expertise has been well established. In either case, stepping into this archetype represents important implications, both for an individual and for our profession. 

At a personal level, becoming an Eager Apprentice launches a journey where the destination is the pursuit itself, not a predetermined terminal point of learning. The more practitioners uncover about themselves, the more there is to explore further. In this respect, although being an Eager Apprentice is a beginning, the only way the quest ever ends is if the practitioner satisfies his or her thirst for introspective discovery and there is no longer the passion for diving further into who we are.  

As it relates to the profession of change execution, Eager Apprentices constitute the pool from which the remaining four archetypes can emerge. Without this cadre of enthusiastic novices, there would be no future Thought Leaders focused on character and presence. This continuing stream of new entrants is our only hope of one day seeing enough Thought Leaders to support who we are as a priority for our profession.

Solid Performers

Practicing our craft can range from being incredibly easy to extremely difficult, depending on the change we are chartered to support and the environment in which we work. No matter how simple or grueling those changes are, having Solid Performers who are committed to bringing forward who they are into their work is invaluable.

Solid Performers have moved beyond their Eager Apprenticeship role, where they learned what contributes to being “out of sync” with their true nature and the various ways their presence could better align with their character. They are now skilled in building and sustaining trusting relationships with their sponsors, peers, and others they work with based on expressing who they really are (instead of projecting a false image to keep others comfortable). As a result, they have integrated their technical credibility (methodology) with their personal authenticity (their state of being), resulting in a heightened effectiveness when serving clients.

Although committed to their own expression of who they are, those in this archetype devote little attention toward urging other practitioners to follow suit.

Adept Adventurers

The Adept Adventurer is critical to the success of highly difficult change initiatives. No matter how effectively such changes are planned, the unexpected will arise and require change practitioners to show up in ways they have not before. The alignment between character and presence that they achieved as Solid Performers is tested and often they find the gains made in how they show up are no longer enough for the challenges they face. Unless prepared to step into new, uncharted territory regarding exploring, and bringing forward and integrating who they are into their work, practitioners put the change at risk and also hinder their own advancement as change facilitators.

When stepping into the unknown, the Adept Adventurer does so with reason and intuition. At this level, it takes both an understanding that mistakes are inevitable and the courage to persevere when progress seems slow or nonexistent. This kind of tenacity is important if the practitioner is to gain new insights into how his or her character and presence can be brought forward as part of the value proposition to clients.

As a result of their diligence, Adept Adventurers are able to shed enough ego to avoid always having to be right. This frees them to take some risks as they explore new implications about their character and presence. In turn, they foster a level of trust with their sponsors that allows them to engage in the depth of conversation that such risks warrant. Adept Adventurers consider the character and presence they bring to their work as essential ingredients for this kind of risk taking and trust building.

Despite the capacity to experiment with new ways to strengthen and leverage who they are, Adept Adventurers are primarily focused on their own personal/professional growth and how that can contribute to specific change projects. Except when called for within a specific project, they seldom invest in passing on their learning to Eager Apprentices or Solid Performers. This lack of sharing isn’t done out of malice, nor is it even an intentional act of withholding. It’s just that advancing practitioners throughout the profession isn’t a priority…it’s not part of their personal agenda. They would happily answer another’s questions and wouldn’t hesitate to provide any support they could, if asked to help others who struggle with integrating their character and presence, but they aren’t proactive about engaging such discussions.

Periodic Contributors

Those who step into the Periodic Contributor archetype are moving beyond integrating their character/presence into specific change initiatives. They have explored enough of this territory to have identified a few important insights and lessons they are sometimes willing to share with others. When the circumstances are right, they will help promote who we are as being on an equal par with what we do.  They also offer their views about how showing up in the work can create value for clients.

Periodic Contributors are committed to and skilled at leveraging their true nature as a key asset when working with their clients. They occasionally focus on fostering awareness around issues like character and presence, but not with any consistency. They are not indifferent toward having our professional community embrace who we are as part of its core. In fact, most practitioners at this level will say they would like to see that occur. They just don’t feel compelled to help  make it happen.

Periodic Contributors will, on occasion, go out of their way to speak or write about topics like character and presence. It is not the norm, but it is also not unusual for them to have a one-on-one conversation, deliver a speech, or write an article or blog post advocating the importance of bringing who we are to the forefront of change facilitation.

At this point in the evolution of our profession, it is important that we encourage and nurture Periodic Contributors. They are our future. This archetype helps promote the advancement of things like character and presence as critical components to providing value to clients. They don’t advocate for this to the extent Thought Leaders do, but are still an important part of the supporting infrastructure for helping the who we are mindset gain a stronger foothold. Also, they are just one step removed from the most influential force we have toward embracing how we show up as a vital part of our profession’s value proposition.

Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders, Eager Apprentices, and each of the archetypes in between are capable of delivering their respective value to clients. That said, it is Thought Leaders who make the most significant contribution to the advancement of our field. This is true for both what we do and who we are. Specific to how we show up in our work, they have a disproportionately positive impact on helping our professional community recognize the importance of character and presence when fulfilling change facilitation duties. Thought Leaders who focus on who we are have a vital role in raising awareness about this aspect of practicing our craft, but there’s a problem—there aren’t enough of them.

One of the factors contributing to our profession’s anemic mindshare for who we are issues and challenges is the near absence of Thought Leaders attentive to this topic. With so little of this kind of advocacy and guidance available, to whom do the apprentices, performers, adventurers, and contributors turn? Far too many practitioners showing an interest in this area are left on their own. They try to integrate character and presence into their work but without the benefit of what has been learned from those who have previously forged paths through some of these same challenges.

We need more Thought Leaders to help propel our profession into a new phase of its evolution, where character and presence is considered at least as important as what practitioners know and know how to do.

With more Thought Leaders in support of who we are, our profession could be positioned for an increasingly strong and successful future. As we individually and collectively strengthen our character and presence, we will be better prepared to step into the challenges we face, to provide sponsors the guidance they require for success, and to support the next generation of practitioners who are coming after us.

My next two posts will probe deeply into the role of the Thought Leader.

Posted on: August 27, 2013 11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

What Benefits Do You Offer Your Clients?

Categories: Thought Leadership

In the first post of this series, I explained that there is plenty of cutting-edge thinking about our frameworks, tools, and methodologies, but little thought leadership related to the who we are side of our craft.

For Thought Leaders to be fully appreciated, they must be seen in context. Think of them as representing the high end of a benefit continuum that reflects the value change agents provide those they serve. Because of their depth of experience, Thought Leaders offer a rare grasp of the complexities and nuances associated with practicing our craft. At the other extreme are Eager Apprentices who are early in their development and not yet in a position to contribute much to the benefit continuum. In between are Solid Performers, Adept Adventurers, and Periodic Contributors. Consider these as five maturation archetypes, each playing a critical role in both the success of organizational change and the advancement of our profession.

It is easy to see how these archetypes play out in regards to what we do:

  • Eager Apprentices are consumed with learning the basics of our profession (skills, models, frameworks, etc.)
  • Solid Performers approach change execution by adhering to the rules. They apply the validated concepts, established processes, and dependable techniques they have come to rely on. They are highly effective in their role with their own clients but spend little time or energy helping other practitioners (outside their own colleagues) access their lessons learned or replicate their successes.
  • Adept Adventurers stretch a bit beyond their comfort zone. They refine existing frameworks or tools in ways that add value to the situation at hand but seldom pass on these modifications to other practitioners outside their organization or small circle of direct contacts.
  • Periodic Contributors provide excellent client work and, on occasion, break new ground that contributes to advancing the profession, which they occasionally share with practitioners throughout the professional community.
  • Finally, there are Thought Leaders who generate exceptional value for their clients, are the fountainheads for inventive new thinking and applications in our field, and are influential beyond the people they directly affect.

There are plenty of examples of how each of the archetypes relate to the concepts, frameworks, processes, and techniques we use when engaged with clients. Most people in our field, however, have no role models or guidance on how these five exemplars relate to “showing up” in our work. I contend that we should apply the same distinctions to the who we are aspects of practicing our craft:

  • Eager Apprentices are early in their journey and still focused on seeing how character and presence can be key assets in providing value to their clients. They are only beginning to discover how their true nature can play out in their work. They are just starting to explore how to more boldly express and better leverage the uniqueness they have within them to the benefit of their clients. 
  • Solid Performers approach their practitioner duties with a sound foundation for bringing their full selves to their work. They consider how they show up as an essential part of what they have to offer. They are comfortable: 1) embracing their true nature, 2) aligning their character and presence for authentic expression, and 3) securing clients who value their character/presence package. Their own commitment to integrating who they are with what they do is well established, but they don’t spend much time or energy encouraging other practitioners within the broader professional community to do the same.
  • Adept Adventurers are comfortable enough in their ability to stay true to their core nature that they are able to engage in some experimentation. They are ready to risk pushing past what they are confident in thinking, doing, and feeling in order to explore new possibilities. What they seek is to deepen their facility for and/or commitment to operating as de-victimized, sovereign change practitioners. Though they are secure enough in living their own truth to investigate new avenues to pursue for themselves, they don’t often openly encourage other practitioners to value who they are as much as what they do
  • Periodic Contributors take enough risk and explore enough unfamiliar ground to be able to occasionally offer unique perspectives to other change facilitators regarding how “showing up” can be incorporated into increasing practitioner effectiveness.
  • Thought Leaders are practitioners who contribute often to helping individuals understand the importance of who we are and also broadly share their views so the entire profession can benefit. 

As practitioners develop professionally and progress further on the benefit continuum, each level attained incorporates and expands on the prior levels. This means all five archetypes play an important part in the value chain of our profession. They are clearly differentiated, but not in a way that suggests one is better than another. Whatever archetype one occupies at a given time, there is value to be dispensed. For some, the benefits are rationed only to clients and associates. For others, the insights and lessons learned are made available on a broader scale.     

The bottom line is we need the full complement of archetypes applied to both what we do and who we are if we are to serve our clients and continue to evolve as a professional discipline. The field of change execution has done a relatively good job of utilizing the archetypes toward learning, using, and teaching others the methodologies associated with our craft, but we are lagging far behind when it comes to doing the same for the who we are side of our work.

In the next post, I’ll show how the five levels can and should be applied to fostering a greater emphasis on the practitioner’s character and presence. In posts 4 and 5, I’ll pay particular attention to the role of Thought Leader.

Posted on: August 22, 2013 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Does It Take to Be a Thought Leader in the Field of Change Facilitation?

Categories: Thought Leadership

“Without a following, potential thought leaders are simply people with good, or maybe even brilliant ideas, but that is all; they are not thought leaders. It’s like having a Facebook account with no friends in it.”    Rick Hubbard in Thought Leadership 2.0

In a couple of prior blog series (Character and Presence and Cultivating Character), I described two aspects to being a professional change facilitator:

  • What we do: The concepts, frameworks, processes, and techniques used when engaged with clients
  • Who we are: Our true nature—the substance of what we have to offer as human beings when interacting with clients

In my view, there is ample thought leadership devoted to what we do as change practitioners. Actually, there could never be enough, but those who are contributing to our profession’s advancement in this way have had, and will continue to have, a significant influence on extending the horizon of what is possible in our field. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the who we are side of our work.

To have the kind of trusted-advisor relationship with those we serve that creates real value, we must have both logical and emotional connections with them. Well-executed tools and techniques can impress a client’s intellect, but it takes a strong character and a trusting presence to speak to his or her heart. Character and presence separate those change technicians focused on submitting deliverables and meeting timelines from masterful practitioners who also provide valuable insight and wisdom to their clients. Yet the majority of time and energy allocated to professional development in our field centers on the concepts and frameworks in support of what we do, and not the introspective exploration required to delve into who we are as we engage in our activities.

As a result, most change practitioners haven’t invested much in exploring how they “show up.” It is understandable, then, why so little thought leadership has surfaced in this realm. This lack of attention to how our core nature affects our work first contributes to—and then combines with—the resulting scarcity of thought leadership. It forms a self-reinforcing cycle that hinders our profession from breaking out of the constraining orbit we have fashioned for ourselves. Until change practitioners view who they are on a par with what they do, our profession will not be able to break free and fully realize the value it is capable of creating.

The intent of this series is to issue a call to action for us as a professional community. It is time to step into a new era where we pursue more frequent and deeper investigations of how we show up when engaged in our work. We must also take more responsibility for creating thought leadership to support this aspect of our individual and collective development. That is, we need to be more vigilant about registering, documenting, and disseminating new perspectives about bringing our full selves into play when serving as change advisors.

Greater awareness of the importance that character and presence play in practicing our craft will lead to a corresponding increase in related thought leadership, which, in turn, will foster greater awareness. I believe these two components, when combined, can gain enough momentum to break free from the stifling impact on our effectiveness that results when a disproportionate amount of our developmental energy goes toward advancing what we do. Awareness and thought leadership are essential links to forming a self-reinforcing cycle that can help propel us toward living up to our individual and collective professional potential.   

What Is Thought Leadership?

Maybe the best place to begin is by describing what thought leadership isn’t. There are numerous activities in which people can engage that might qualify them as an authority in a specialized field such as ours. However, that does not mean they are thought leaders. 

None of the following make you a thought leader in the field of change execution:

  • You have practiced your craft for many years and/or are considered by some to be an expert in the field. (There is more to it than being good at what you do.)
  • You publish articles, books, or blogs. (Being prolific isn’t enough.)
  • You deliver speeches or present at conferences. (Being an interesting and/or entertaining speaker doesn’t make you a thought leader.)
  • You sometimes refine pre-existing concepts, frameworks, or tools (yours or someone else’s) that became popular in the market place. (Thought leadership isn’t about augmenting what is already available, it’s about opening up new space—revealing unclaimed territory.)
  • People find your perspectives informative and/or useful. (Instructors provide value through training, and technicians by solving problems, but that doesn’t make them thought leaders.)
  • You are a source for innovative thinking but only if everything is tightly protected within your proprietary boundaries. (Thought leadership is about sharing with other practitioners, not granting access only to your own clients or associates.)
  • You once had a stroke of genius that contributed in some way to advancing the profession but have had little pioneering influence since then. (Thought leadership is based on an extensive collection of work, not on gaining some notoriety with one success and then continuing to ride that horse long after it is dead.)
  • You create what you believe are brilliant new contributions to the field but:
    • Other change practitioners don’t notice, OR
    • What you offer becomes popular and is commercially successful but fails to evoke much new thinking.
  • You plagiarize someone else’s thinking and pass it off as your own original work to people who don’t know any better. (I regret having to include this, but it happens too frequently for us to ignore it.)
  • You claim the designation of thought leader for yourself. (Declaring yourself a thought leader or having someone who works for you refer to you that way doesn’t make it so.)

Some of what I’ve included in this listing may come as a surprise. Many people assume that expertise, publishing, speechmaking, notoriety, innovation, and/or commercial success can secure a position as a thought leader. In my opinion, this is not the case. Although thought leaders are typically associated with these distinctions, the characteristics alone don’t justify the title. The bar for authentic thought leadership is set at a much higher level. 

Now let’s look at what really makes you a thought leader:

  • You break new ground—Thought leadership in our field is provided by those who pioneer previously unexplored aspects to existing areas of the profession or open completely new areas of pursuit.
  • You disrupt the norm—Thought Leaders don’t seek widespread acceptance for the perspectives they share. They pursue a better understanding of the issues and dynamics that reside at the edge of our profession or underneath what hasn’t been openly discussed in the past. What they talk and write about is often edgy and makes recipients uncomfortable because the current way of thinking/operating is questioned.   
  • You are a source of wisdom—Thought leaders provide access to levels of perception, depth of understanding, degrees of discernment, sage guidance, etc. that isn’t accessible through normal channels. 
  • You influence peers—Earning this level of regard isn’t about impressing the uninformed. It is fine to astound clients, but thought leadership means being recognized among professional peers as a reliable source for penetrating questions, insightful interpretations, cutting-edge ideas, prototype developments, and unique applications.
  • You impact people beyond your primary constituency—Thought leaders have a range of influence that extends past those whom they directly affect. There are secondary, tertiary, or even more tiers of people who benefit as their perspectives are passed on by others.
  • You advance the profession—Thought leadership carries with it a responsibility to create advantages for the entire professional community, not just for the developer and his or her clients. It requires that all practitioners—colleagues and competitors alike—benefit from the new thinking.
  • You inspire others—Those who value the views of thought leaders shouldn’t just be better informed or prepared to address specific challenges as a result of the influence. They should, at least occasionally, be moved to want to raise their game to a higher level.
  • You are dedicated to sharing what you know—Thought leaders are motivated, not by displaying their knowledge, but by seeing those they influence grasp and use what they offer. It is better yet if recipients can expand on the perspectives transferred and take those ideas or guidance to a new level beyond what the thought leader originally had in mind.
  • You consistently discover and create—Thought leaders gain their following based on a cumulative body of work, not an occasional home run that gains attention for a short period.
  • You remain humble—Thought leaders accept that others look to them as sources for ideas and interventions that push the envelope, but they don’t allow this to become an ego block to their own continued learning. These are people who hold deep convictions about the lessons they’ve learned while remaining embarrassed at how little they really know. 
  • You are considered a thought leader by others—The moniker of thought leader can’t be declared on oneself. It can’t be purchased, self-proclaimed, or artificially manufactured in any way—it must be earned in the eyes of others and conferred by them or it isn’t the real deal.

If it sounds like the bar to qualify as a genuine thought leader is high, it’s because it is. If it appears out of reach for most people, this is true as well, but not necessarily because of a lack of capability. Many people have the requisite knowledge, skill, experience, and insight to fill a thought leader’s role but choose not to, due to the time and effort it takes or because what they possess that could benefit the entire profession might lessen a competitive advantage they feel they have by keeping it to themselves. The fact that true thought leadership is difficult to achieve and not even within one’s control doesn’t mean there aren’t other avenues for “thought value” contribution. There are several options for advancing our profession’s maturation that are not as demanding as thought leadership and generate significant value for our field. These will be discussed in the next post.

My point here is that we need to be clear about what thought leadership is and isn’t if we are going to address what I believe is a gaping hole in our professional community’s advancement potential. Every year, we generate an unending stream of state-of-the-art thinking related to what we do (framework, techniques, etc.) but there is very little thought leadership available devoted to who we are. It is my hope that, in the future, there will be both more engagement around how we show up as change practitioners and a corresponding increase in thought leadership to support this aspect of our work.

In the next post, I’ll explore the relevancy of thought leadership as a part of the character and presence necessary for the effective practice of our craft.

Posted on: August 13, 2013 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Military justice is to justice what military music is to music."

- Groucho Marx



Vendor Events

See all Vendor Events