Recently Mitch Joel wrote an article about the emerging trend of people dubbing themselves “thought leader”or “guru”. It was a great post – you should go read it.
Yesterday I came across another Twitter bio in which someone self-tagged as a “thought leader”, and it generated this (probably unwarranted) response:
Here's a thought: from now on, no one is allowed to tag themselves a "thought leader". Sound good?
— Todd Henry (@toddhenry) July 22, 2013
The problem with calling yourself a thought leader is that you suddenly become hyper conscious about where your thoughts might be leading. You might begin to worry more about the influence of your thoughts than about the intrinsic value of the thoughts. This is a slippery slope into manipulation and self-centered work, and it’s also destructive to the openness required for a healthy creative process.
It’s my belief that we desperately need more “thought followers”.
These are people who immerse themselves in the brilliant, challenging thoughts of others, commune with great minds, and then follow their own thoughts wherever they might lead. They have a disciplined Study Plan that challenges them to think about important problems and allows them to stretch their thoughts and explore uncomfortable places.
They aren’t afraid to humbly submit to the great insights of others and consider their implications to their own work. They are fiercely curious. They love process. They set aside time to savor great writing. They understand that brilliant ideas are excavated and assembled, not self-generated.
The funny thing is that those who become great “thought followers” are the best candidates to later become “thought leaders”, but they probably won’t self-adopt the tag. (As a side note, I immediately went to Twitter and added “thought follower” to my bio.)
Become a thought follower. Immerse yourself in brilliant and beautiful thoughts of others, then follow them, savor them, and consider how they are relevant to the important problems you’re tasked with solving.