Published by Geoff Kelly, Kelly Strategic Influence
Wisdom to lead minds:
“The secret of business is to focus relentlessly on your unfair advantage – the thing you do that others don’t.”
former Chairman and CEO of Cray Research
How to Develop Deep Dive Ideas that Build Connections of Real Value
Average organisations and their leaders spend a year or more coming up with messages,
logos and brand identities. They then shovel them into brochures that lie in state in
reception areas, on web sites that attract few visitors, and in blogs read only by those
who love them.
With their focus on the puddle in front of their noses, they neglect the ocean of
potential from deeper engagement with influencers in their business environment.
Effective thought leaders use deep dive messaging that gives them distinction and
relevance in the minds of their most important stakeholders. This goes beyond the
identity and tagline to engage those most important to their success about important
ideas. These ideas are important not only to the thought leaders, but also to their main
In today’s over-communicated marketplace, effective thought leadership is one of the
few ways to build and continue quality relationships. First, it refuses to indulge in the
folly of blasting out ever more refined messages and graphics about the leader and his
or her organisation. And second, effective thought leadership shares ideas and
perspectives that are helpful and relevant to decision-makers and influencers in the
Effective thought leadership creates powerful and lasting connections with
decision-makers and influencers. This makes it as important an asset to the leader and
the organisation as buildings and information technology. Here we define an asset as
something of economic value owned by the leader or the organisation that they can
convert to other economic benefits including cash.
Thought leadership drives connections and relationships that build reputation and trust,
speed sales and joint venture agreements, and lower the perceived risks of dealing
with the leaders and organisations who originate it. These are rare and valuable benefits
with the potential to deliver strong returns and competitive advantage.
The formula to reap these rewards is simple, but needs a steady effort that mediocre
leaders are unwilling to invest. First, this effort goes to developing worthwhile
perspectives and ideas, the intellectual capital of thought leadership. And second, it
takes those perspectives and ideas to market with enough force to make a difference.
Both parts of this formula take passion for the thought leadership theme adopted,
courage to persistently develop perspectives and ideas and put them out there, and
discipline to organise around everything else a leader needs to do.
Some potential thought leaders stumble on intellectual capital. On the one hand,
some take the easy route and adopt the ideas of others as their own. Despite the
increased risks of being caught with easier checks on the Internet, too many still get
away with this in their articles, papers and speeches. However, it is becoming riskier
for them every year.
They may produce special reports, speeches, articles, research, books, and an array
of other signature mechanisms of thought leadership, much of it is shallow and of
poor quality. They reveal themselves with unsound arguments, feeble writing,
clichéd ideas, thin research, and clumsy presentations.
On the other hand, some set the bar of innovation impossibly high; looking for ideas
that are breakthrough, unique, and of massive value. By setting out to cure cancer or
solve world poverty, they frustrate themselves out of the game. In reality, most
effective thought leaders build on and recognise the ideas of others, and make a
distinct contribution in a specific part of the whole.
So thought leaders focus on an area they are passionate about. They make the
effort to rigorously understand what others have contributed, and stand on their
shoulders in making a usually small contribution to further progress. Sometimes
the innovation will be in the way they adapt, package and present the ideas to meet
a specific need, but even here it can be a distinctive contribution.
When we are impressed by a thought leader’s speaking or writing, it is tempting to
assume that their talent is in the speaking or writing. However, like an athlete who
has just broken a record, their true strength lies not in the performance but in their
preparation. So a thought leader’s reputation has almost everything to do with how
well they immerse themselves in their subject over time, and connect it to the
challenges and opportunities of their target market.
Leaders who successfully lead on specific ideas enjoy more trust and more success
than their peers. They remain genuine because they are passionate about these
ideas and immerse themselves in continuous learning, development and sharing.
Some may go fast with this, others may go slow. However, all who are successful
have mastered the art of keeping going, and it is this consistency over time that
brings them big rewards.
This is as true for individuals like Peter Drucker on management or Warren Bennis
on leadership, as it is for organisations such as McKinsey on business strategy and
DuPont on industrial safety. The most successful thought leaders are consistent
over time. And despite the hours and effort needed the rewards return exponential
gains on that investment.
Thought leaders do work for their leadership position, but in return they achieve an
unfair advantage over their competitors. This is a priceless asset in the clutter and
chaos of today’s marketplace.
More next month...
Geoff Kelly works with leaders who are frustrated that others don't fully support their ideas and strategies. He mainly works with corporate leaders around the world, but also leaders in Government and Not for Profit. He is also a popular speaker on this and related subjects. See www.kellystrategicinfluence.com.au, email [email protected] or call +613 9678 9218 for more information
© 2009-2010 Geoff Kelly All rights reserved.
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