A similar background, same levels of education, similar industries, matching personality types …
No, no and no again.
The thought leaders I’ve worked with over the years couldn’t be more different if they tried. They’ve varied from financial and tech geeks educated in the state school system, marketing professionals determined to make their profession more ethical to people born with a silver spoon in their proverbial mouths who have a burning desire to support the underdog.
They come from across the broad swathe of industries, are both introvert and extrovert, warm and giving and brutally direct and analytical.
However, thought leaders have certain qualities in common:
- They have a highly defined purpose. They know what they stand for, what they are trying to do, where they need to go and in many instances, how that journey will unfold.
- They are passionate about what they do. They are working hard at changing the world in some way, either by developing new models and methods of doing business, applying new technologies to the workplace or taking a stand on an issue and changing hearts and minds.
- They are genuine subject matter experts. They are knowledgeable individuals who’ve earned their stripes in the field or devoted their careers to researching their special interest topic. They have knowledge others simply don’t have.
- They’re hugely curious. They’re constantly asking questions, learning new things, reading voraciously and doggedly determined to remain ahead of the pack in their areas of expertise.
- They’re courageous. They’re willing to be controversial, confrontational, challenge the status quo and are more than happy not to toe the corporate line. They’re not afraid of criticism and simply see it as part of doing their job.
Of these qualities, having a distinct and well-defined purpose is without a doubt the most important.
For our best known thought leader and visionary, Sir Richard Branson, his purpose is very much about shaking up industries where he believes consumers are getting a raw deal, while for SpaceX founder and Tesla product architect, Elon Musk, it is about helping to reduce global warming and via space-travel, the risk of human extinction.
For Australian serial entrepreneur and co-founder of the personal finance comparison site finder.com.au, Fred Schebesta, it is about helping people save money and take the stress out of choosing financial products, such as credit cards, home loans and savings accounts.
While we don’t expect you to be the next Richard Branson, Elon Musk or Fred Schebesta, having the right stuff will help reduce pot-holes, smooth out the surfaces and make your thought leadership journey infinitely easier.
If you are interested in learning more about thought leadership and the processes and steps involved, do register for our next two-hour Thought Leadership Workshop on Tuesday 18 July at Hub Southern Cross, Level 2, 696 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD.