In the early 1990’s the term “Thought Leadership” was coined by noted business leader and author, Joel Kutzman, in the magazine Strategy + Business. Mr. Kutzman used it to define a futurist or person who is recognized as an innovator of new and fresh ideas resulting in new products, new directions and new ways. A Thought Leader is the creator and the advocate of “newness;” Thought Leadership has nothing to do with position or managing people. The concept has grown since it was first coined, and today is a vital driver of business success, both individually and organizationally.
There are many Thought Leaders found in numerous areas of practice now. Much has been written on concrete steps to becoming a Thought Leader. The advice advocated here is not about those concrete steps, but rather is about a healthy inter-self or one-self. It is advice for the one to obtain and maintain the healthy inter-self necessary to Thought Leadership. Further, this advice is up in the stratosphere. It is not specific, but it is actionable. Not only will it increase one’s level of Thought Leadership, but is necessary for Thought Leadership.
Advice: Nurture your body, mind and soul. I believe we focus more on continual need for development of traditional skills, e.g., technical skills, soft skills, management skills, and fail to recognize the importance of body, mind and soul in leadership, especially Thought Leadership. Healthy body (your physical well-being), mind (your mental well-being) and soul (your spiritual well-being) is critical for Thought Leadership.
Thought Leadership development is rooted in personal development and organizational transformation is rooted in individual transformation. Consequently, it is essential that Thought Leaders develop personally and individually. Nurturing body, mind and soul is essential for the Thought Leader.
Background: In development of the traditional leaders, we generally place great value and recognize the need for critical, technical and analytical skills as well as soft skills such as communication, teamwork, project management, strong work ethic, etc. But the skills required for Thought Leadership are different. Thought Leadership resonates with innovation, intuition, stamina, imagination, creativity, confidence and generosity. Whether the Thought Leader has strong or weak interpersonal skills doesn’t matter. They could be an indifferent character, a loner or an eccentric. They might be odd creator types — the mad scientist image comes to mind.
All that counts for Thought Leadership is the credibility of the new idea, new direction, new way or new product being advocated, recognition of the receiving audience of the Thought Leader’s innovativeness, and Thought Leader’s possession of the confidence to promote or share the idea. The Thought Leader does not need to have strong management skills; the implementation of the new idea or product can be left to the traditional manager. Thought Leadership is the initiation of new directions and new ideas; implementation of the new idea is managerial activity.
I advocate that being a Thought Leader requires a healthy body, mind and soul.
Nurturing Body. Thought Leaders must be physically fit. Not much to be said other than eat right and healthy; do not over-medicate, watch your weight, get sufficient sleep and exercise daily.
Nurturing Mind. Thought Leaders must be mentally fit. Thought leaders are like the playful child within that believes in magic, in dreams. They must be imaginative; they must have the creative skill to call upon mental images not present to the senses. Thought Leaders must access their imagination. The magic Thought Leaders possess is believing in one-self. And by acting thereon, they can make anything happen.
Thought Leaders must also act on their intuition, their inter visions, hunches, vibes and gut feelings. They must have the confidence to promote their ideas. They are generous with their time, intelligence and knowledge. Thought Leaders give without expecting anything in return.
To nurture mind, Thought Leaders should empower themselves with and have downtime for:
o Silence (when they turn their heads off)
o Stillness (which is the door to intuitive ideas)
o Reflection (contemplation of one-self)
o Looking inward and at one-self
o Maintaining social intelligence, i.e., conversation
o Reverie (day dreaming; lost in thought)
o Developing resilience (the positive capacity to cope with stress)
o Building self-confidence
Nurturing Soul. Thought Leaders must be spiritually fit. They need time to create spiritual and emotional growth; to have sense of well-being. The sense of well-being and happiness emanates from the soul to the psyche. If the soul is ignored or malnourished, the psyche and ultimately the body suffer.
Some methods Thought Leaders may choose to maintain soul include:
o Having gratitude or internal thankfulness (having gratitude makes the Thought Leader realize they have more to give; they don’t view the glass half full – instead they view it as “my cup runneth over”).
o Spending time in nature (walking, hiking, sitting before a campfire or fireplace to connect to nature and earth),
o Deep breathing (exposure to air),
o Tapping (exposure to sound),
o Reiki Chakra treatment (to maintain your universal life force energy)
Thought Leaders need and have skills differing from traditional leadership skills. The requisite skills can enhanced with healthy body, mind and soul. This is only the beginning though; Thought Leaders must have a life long commitment to nurturing their body, mind and soul to retain the skills they possess necessary for the development of new ideas, new ways, new products, new directions, etc.