Thought Leadership -championing of new direction and ideas in networks and organisations

What is Thought leadership? Thought leadership is based on the power of ideas to transform the way we think.  It is also based on the natural dispositions to challenge to the status quo.  Thought leadership can range from small suggestions about a minor working practice to revolutionary changes in strategic direction.

Thought leadership is an activity measure that examines whether current papers are building on the more recent discoveries or on the older discoveries in a field.

An agent is considered a thought leader if it is building on the more recent discoveries in its field.

Vanessa writes in this post on thought leadership:

But it is not their joining patterns which are most interesting; it is what they do and what they value while engaging online that really matters. The overwhelming majority of respondents (95%) told us that the primary reason they participate in online communities is to gain access to thought leadership they could not find otherwise.

Professionals understand and are acting on the core value propositions of an online community: a 24X7 platform to exchange ideas, learn from thought leaders and connect with peers, rather than simply watching and comparing notes. Professional networks and online communities support the age-old traditions of thought leadership, intellectual debate and the pursuit of both practical and theoretical knowledge to help make us more skilled in our work, illuminate our thinking and shape us into better men and women.

Is emotional intelligence essential for thought leadership? In accordance to the argument presented here on Thought leadership, EI is not essential for thought leadership.  There has been research indicating that more managers value emotional intelligence over IQ in organisations.

Is emotional intelligence important in the cultivation of thought leadership?  I would argue that certain degree of emotional intelligence is necessary for individuals, as any ideas or thoughts once conceived and developed would still need to be spread and propagated through certain media, networks in order for them to “live a life of its own”.  A sense of self awareness, confidence and control is necessary not only in the conception of ideas and development of knowledge, but also in the communication and “broadcast” of ideas in the network or community.  It is also important to understand the relationship between leadership and emotional intelligence, where managing one’s emotion and understanding others’ emotions are closely linked to effective leadership.

I found thought leadership useful in networked learning, in particular when applying this concept in the case of networked organisation and community leadership.  Thought leadership has none of the managerial overtones of organising action, executing tasks, making decisions or coordinating effort toward achieving joint goals.  In fact, there might not even be joint goals in the small groups or communities.  Instead, the emphasis could be the creation of new knowledge and development of innovative ideas through builds and bounds of ideas, conversation and dialogues.  In this context, thought leaders are not empowered, not given authority to make decisions.  They are, rather, what Hamel (2001) calls revolutionaries, employees who challenge the status quo and press for change. (see Thought leadership)

It is further noteworthy to contrast such thought leadership with the elements of effective leadership as summarized in  leadership and emotional intelligence – development of collective goals and objectives; instilling in others an appreciation of the importance of work activities; generating and maintaining enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, cooperation, and trust; encouraging flexibility in decision making and change; and establishing and maintaining a meaningful identity for an organization.

Would thought leadership in networks require some or all of the 5 elements as mentioned above?  Would there be collective goals and objectives in networks or communities?  I don’t think that is the case.  Rather, there may be connective goals and objectives in small groups, though such goals and objectives may be different from that in organisations.  Thought leadership does not necessarily lead to decision making, but I would argue that encouraging flexibility in decision making and change is a core concept in thought leadership, since a thought leader could also be a formal leader in an organisation setting.

Does thought leadership require the establishment and maintenance of a meaningful identity for an organisation, a community, or a network?  This is where I think more researches are needed to explore.

Photo credit: Flickr


9 thoughts on “Thought Leadership -championing of new direction and ideas in networks and organisations

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  4. In complete agreement with you John; I think that EI does play an important role in leadership – how else can someone who wishes to lead, connect with others? One needs to be able to connect if one is to lead others. This applies both in classroom contexts (i.e. connecting with learners) as well as other contexts, (e.g. being able to connect with colleagues in the workplace, connecting with voters etc).

    As always, I enjoy immensely reading your posts and reflections 🙂

  5. Pingback: #Change11 Inquiry in the networks | Learner Weblog

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