I have a problem with the term “thought leader”.

According to Dictionary.com, “leader” is described this way:

- noun
a person or thing that leads.
a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.

We all know what a thought is, so no real need to go to a dictionary for that. So, put the two of them together to get thought leader, and we’re basically saying someone that leads an army just by their thoughts alone.

Since we’re not living in The Matrix yet, this is where my problem with the term thought leader comes in, and offering someone that title.

We don’t lead people’s thoughts.

People aren’t so dumb that they need someone to lead the way to have a thought. People don’t need to be taken by the hand and led to a big Thought River where they’re then instructed to drink from it by the almighty Leader.

No. People have their own thoughts every single day. Some make it into an action stage. Some don’t.

But they’re not led to that place, or that revelation. They’re not waiting in a holding pattern until the next megastar blogger or speaker or author or celebrity comes along and leads the way.

To lead is to direct. How do you direct any thoughts but your own? Besides, thoughts are intangible until put into action. If there is any reaction from someone else’s thoughts, then it’s after the intangible has become tangible.

A reaction to an action. So it’s more thought reaction than thought leadership.

I read two great posts today about “thought leadership”. Both spoke about some of the people and thoughts that are meant to have us nod sagely and proclaim them as thought leaders.

Geoff and Doug both make bang-on points about why this type of thinking is bogus, and why thought leadership is a conflict in terms just waiting to happen.

You don’t need to be led. No-one does. At least, not when it comes to thoughts. You might need to be led in a new job until you’re familiar with the set-up, or how to please your new partner in bed until you know what makes them tick.

But thought leadership? Something doesn’t sit right with that term.

If anything, it should be thought breedership. There’s a ton of folks offering their thoughts on a variety of topics, and they (rightly so) inspire you to action.

But they don’t lead you to action.

Maybe we should be talking thought breedership instead. I guess the problem is, because everyone can breed thoughts in others, it might just upset those that want to be known as thought leaders.

And we couldn’t have that now, could we?

image: AsGood

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Danny Brown
Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. #1 marketing blog in world as per HubSpot. Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Never says no to a good single malt. You can find me on Twitter - Google+ - LinkedIn.

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