In a recent posting by Chris Koch on Gartner’s new take on thought leadership, he ponders whether their definition (posted below) is too narrow:
“The giving—for free or at a nominal charge—of information or advice that a client will value so as to create awareness of the outcome that a company’s product or service can deliver, in order to position and differentiate that offering and stimulate demand for it.
I for one agree with Chris. I don’t have the pithy paragraph that sums it up, but I link it to how the industry (not just the company disseminating the thought leadership) can meet their highest priority needs (by themselves and with the help of vendor solutions). And when I say meet, I don’t necessarily mean immediately. Instead, thought leadership conversations should revolve around what pressing issues are being solved today and how, as well as what is not being solved now, and why.
Answering that last why question is the real meat of thought leadership. More likely than not, these important issues are being discussed in the boardrooms of progressive companies in the industry. That’s why it takes courage to be a thought leader. In some sense, a thought leader is laying out there for everyone to see. The true thought leader, however, has a plan to get there.
Certainly thought leadership should not just reside in the marketing sphere. It’s well and good that customers and prospects get enthused by your thought leadership content (“Gee, if the could do what the describe in the article I just read, I really want to get to know them”) but it should also permeate the culture of the company as well.