thought leadership

A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. The term was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz & Co magazine Strategy & Business, and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas which merited attention. It can also have a negative connotation due to its similarity with dystopian elements found in the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which includes thoughtcrime and thought police. The term is sometimes used to characterize leaders of service clubs, officers of veterans’ organizations, of civic organizations, of women’s clubs, lodges, regional officials and insurance executives. Thought leadership is often used as a way of increasing or creating demand for a product or service. High tech firms will often publish white papers with analysis of economic benefits of the product as a form of marketing. This is a different use of white papers than technical white papers that provide additional technical background. Consulting firms frequently own publications, e.g. The McKinsey Quarterly, A.T. Kearney Executive Agenda, Booz & Co Strategy and Business (now being acquired by PriceWaterhouseCoopers), or Deloitte Review where they publish the results of research, new management models and examples of the use of consulting methodologies. Author and New York Times columnist David Brooks mocked the lifecycle of the role in a sarcastic column entitled “The Thought Leader,” published in December 2013.