What is Thought Leadership, Really?

The difference between the denotative and connotative definitions, and more importantly, the implications of those differences, is the most significant thing I learned in the pursuit of an English degree.

The denotative definition is the literal, dictionary-recognized definition of a word. So, according to dictionary.com, a thought leader is:

A person or organization that is a recognized authority in a particular field, and whose innovative ideas influence and guide others.

There is no separate entry for thought leadership, but Western Governor’s University defines it as:

The expression of ideas that demonstrates expertise in a particular field, area, or topic.

The connotative definition of a word incorporates the subjectivity of interpretation.

The definitions you see on Urban Dictionary are perfect examples of connotative definitions.

The top entry for thought leader is:

“A bloviating, self appointed douche bag who thinks he/ she is an expert. They are usually an expert in brown nosing.”

So by this definition, thought leadership would be seen as scamish, salesy behavior.

My Definition of Thought Leadership

I like connotative definitions because we each get to decide what a word means to us, and that is what gives words their immense power.

I choose to define thought leadership as a way for subject matter experts to take their deep passion for their domain of expertise and share content that not only educates but makes the reader feel like they too can become an expert.

I don’t write for people who just want to create content as a part of a revenue objective. I search for the people who have such passion for what they do that they would love to share it digitally, but simply don’t have the passion for communicating online.

To me, being a thought leader is mix between professor, guidance counselor, and trusted friend.

You want to be like a professor with the way you take complex concepts and package them in frames of reference that will allow your audience to absorb your knowledge.

You want to be like a guidance counselor with the way you weave in personal stories of your journey and all the bumps and bruises you have taken along the way–reminding your audience that experts aren’t born experts.

You want to be like a trusted friend the way you communicate with your audience on social media, with the goal to convert your followers into true digital friends. Digital friendships are the bedrock of online communities.

These are the things I aim to accomplish with every piece of thought leadership content I write for a client.

If my definition of thought leadership made you feel like it’s something worth trying, fill out my form below and we’ll set up a free discovery call!