Thought Leadership

The other day I was given the following definition of the difference between a leader and a manager: ‘Leaders plan, managers do’.

I am not sure that it is a fair definition and certainly not one that I would use as a single definition.  However, I think what was meant is that leadership is about thinking. In other words, managers can get very bogged down in conforming to what needs to be done based on the rules or norms. Being a leader is about looking into the future, planning, imagining what things could be like, etc.  So the expression ‘thought leadership’ is being used.

I would like to expand this. I don’t think that it is solely the responsibility of the leader to do the thinking. In fact, I would say that the responsibility of the leader is to stimulate thinking in their people. Whilst the leaders’ role is and should be ‘a thinker’, it is as important that the leader is encouraging thought.

Firstly, if the leader is the only one doing the thinking, then there is a limit to the thoughts and ideas that will be generated. This was the way business was operated in the old days where the person in a management position was the person with the ideas and everyone else just did what was requested of them, often without question.

More importantly, the more people think and generate ideas, the more ideas and opportunities for improvements and better ways of doing things.

I believe that it is the leaders job to create an environment where people are encouraged to think and come up with ideas that improve the performance of the business or organisation. This is ‘Thought Leadership’. This is the leader as the conductor of the orchestra rather than the parent of the children.

Thought leadership is where the leader sees their people as masters of their skill, experts in what they do and people with inner creativity that needs releasing.

You can tell if someone is a thought leader by the way they respond to you as their boss.  A thought leader is the one that asks you questions, challenges you with their thoughts, seeks opportunities that benefit the team and thinks beyond the confines of the normal way of doing things.

So my questions for you this month are:

  • Are you releasing the creative energy of your people?
  • Are you an example of a thought leader or are you the only thinker? 
  • Are you generating thought leadership and a culture where thought leadership can flourish?
  • What do you do to encourage thought leadership in your people?
  • How do you recognise thought leadership when it happens?
  • Are you trying to be the parent to your team or the conductor of your orchestra?

Best Wishes, Paul


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