Don't you love the title Thought Leader? Perhaps not. I am not even sure how it actually came to be, nor do I really care at this point. It seems to me that it sounds a little like the old adage - "Those who can't do - teach." I have spent a great deal of time listening and reading what thought leaders have to say. I think it is important to study the industry where you reside and to know the key players, as well as understand what success looks like.

What does success in the HR or Recruiting Industry look like? Is it when your blog is read or tweeted by hundreds? Is it when you get asked to speak at a conference? It is when you write a book? Is it when you make your 500th placement? Is it when you and your business survive a downturn? Is it when a client calls you back? Is it when you make a great placement? Is it when your business grows continually? Is it when somebody buys your blog? (By the way, Jerry Albright's is for sale - it's best if your name is Jerry or maybe you just like the name Jerry - www.JerrytheRecruiter.com) Is it when you make the latest Best or Most List that is based on a specific algorithm that nobody really understands?

Is it when you're client/hiring manager is content and calls you for the next requisition? Is it when your candidate is happy? Is it when YOU are satisfied with your work and the outcomes you are able to produce? Maybe you just want to think and write about the industry and are not worried about producing anything. Is that a Thought Leader? Or is a Thought Leader's product inspiration or motivation?

I sat next to Jason Davis at TRULondon last week just briefly between sessions and an announcement was made that sounded a lot like Jason had been deemed a Thought Leader in the recruiting industry. Jason leaned over to me and said, "I don't want to be a Thought Leader or even thought of as a Thought Leader..." I have never thought of Jason as a Thought Leader. He is a worker bee, he is a Doer. He doesn't sit back and count awards or money. He doesn't rely on anyone else to do the job he needs to do. He is constantly evolving, looking for the newer, better way, chasing after the next big idea, putting that idea into action and surrounding himself with incredible people.

What exactly would the job description of a Thought Leader look like? Umm..., Think deep thoughts? Inspire thought in others? Have a Doctorate in Thinkology? Are you more inspired by someone who thinks or someone who does? What do you want to be when you grow up? Are statues built of Thought Leaders? Perhaps, but guess who built them?  Now you get the picture.

by rayannethorn

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LOL, Donna you are so correct and i cringe everytime i hear that from a client. It makes me want to say. "Did you think i would send you some dip squat who hasn't had an original thought in the past 5 years".

I liked it a lot better when clients said, "Send me somebody who can get things done and has enough sense to think about what they are going to do next or what the effect of what they do has on the business and the team."

Donna Brewington White said:
Wait until you have a client that wants to hire one. Then it will matter and you will figure out what a thought leader is. We recruiters tend to be a pragmatic bunch as a general rule.

Sean Ryan said:
Sandra - I agree with everything you said except one thing:
Sandra McCartt said:
Real thought leaders don't give a roaring rat's rear if anybody else thinks they are one

What the hell is a "real" thought leader? My bigger question is "What is a 'Thought Leader' in the first place"?

I'm new to the world of 'recruiters' - actually came from TV news. I can assure you that, while I was in the broadcast industry, no one - ever - used the term 'thought leader'. In fact, when someone first used the word around me, it sounded like something out of "Office Space". Something "the Bobs" would have come up with.

There are a number of people in this industry and others for which I have great respect - and whose opinion I value dearly. But I don't get why we feel like we are among a bunch of modern-day Socrates, Aristotles, and Descartes... Please. It's nauseating.
I just had a hiring manager send me a job description for approval (marketing job) and at the top were the words....."Thought Leader". I sent it back with a note and asked him........"what the hell do you mean by this?". That was a week ago. I still have yet to hear back from him. He must be thinking about it!
Peter Ceccarelli said:
I still have yet to hear back from him. He must be thinking about it!

Tell him to send it to me. ha ha

In all seriousness, I believe there is a great need for thought leaders regardless of what we call them. The term does get used loosely and/or over-used. My appreciation for TL's is more along the lines of the Wikipedia description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_leader

But, then to put my opinion in context, I did at one time think about being a philosophy major -- however, didn't want to spend my career asking "Do you want fries with that?"
The guy who led the charge of the Light Brigade was probably a "thought leader" and look what happened to the Light Brigade. Maybe a thought leader is somebody who knows how to get out of the mess he led everybody into. Or maybe it's just the guy who thought about things enough to pee before he got on the airplane.

TGIF
Donna:

I double majored in Broadcast Journalism and Philosophy... and even with the TV industry in the tubes, I'm still doing a lot more than saying "Do you want fries with that". But the basis for a philosophy major - for me- was to provide a strong base for the type of decision-making and critical thinking I would need to apply to any job.

The key word here is "apply". I'm applying my thought TO something. The definition of "thought leader" only says they are dreaming things up - and I'm pretty sure I saw the term "thinklets' used.

Really? - "Thinklets?" - How can the person who typed up that Wiki entry even begin to take themselves seriously!







Donna Brewington White said:
Peter Ceccarelli said:
I still have yet to hear back from him. He must be thinking about it!

Tell him to send it to me. ha ha

In all seriousness, I believe there is a great need for thought leaders regardless of what we call them. The term does get used loosely and/or over-used. My appreciation for TL's is more along the lines of the Wikipedia description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_leader

But, then to put my opinion in context, I did at one time think about being a philosophy major -- however, didn't want to spend my career asking "Do you want fries with that?"
Sean Ryan said:
Donna:

But the basis for a philosophy major - for me- was to provide a strong base for the type of decision-making and critical thinking I would need to apply to any job. The key word here is "apply". I'm applying my thought TO something. The definition of "thought leader" only says they are dreaming things up - and I'm pretty sure I saw the term "thinklets' used. Really? - "Thinklets?" - How can the person who typed up that Wiki entry even begin to take themselves seriously!

Yeah, the "thinklets" was embarrassing.

My comment about the philosophy major leading to a job serving burgers was tongue in cheek. I think a philosophy major can be very valuable and wish I'd had the imagination to combine it with my biz degree. However, not a practical degree in itself in terms of "marketability."

I didn't get the impression from the Wiki article that thought leadership is just dreaming stuff up -- but offering new ways of looking at and even doing things. If others aren't validating the thoughts and applying them then it isn't truly thought leadership. Thought leadership doesn't involve "followers." It's not that type of leadership -- it's more about people embracing the ideas that validates the "leadership." It's not about spoon-feeding and working out all the implications for application, but offering insight for others to wrestle with and apply.

Whether we like it or not, we are all being led by the thoughts of others -- you probably know this from your philosophy studies. Thought leadership is not on the micro level and it seems that most of the responses to Rayanne's post are looking at this from a more micro level (no offense) and understandably reacting to what has become a fad.

True thought leadership is at the macro level. The way that we do recruiting and many of the changes and enhancements to how we conduct our craft has probably at some point been influenced by a thought leader whether that is a person or an organization.

I do think that the Wikipedia article gives some good examples and descriptions of what true thought leadership is -- in spite of the "fad" that it has become.

Probably more of a response than you wanted or needed. ;-)
As a double major in accounting and Journalism with a double minor in philosoply and psychology i got all balled up in ..wonder how many angels could sit on the head of pin?, why would they do that?, depends on how many pins you have..news flash..did you know that people are thinking about how many angels can sit on the head of pin, details at 10:00.

Would a thought leader be someone who can think about abstracts, analyze and quantify then talk about/ sell it to someone else? I would agree about the macro but it would have to be refined down to the micro to be implemented..therein lies the rub. Ergo ,without doers, thought leaders are still talking about how many angels and nobody cares other than at egghead cocktail parties.

I love word pictures..a "thinklet".
I see your point on the micro/macro... but I don't think that takes away from my point about "Thought Leaders" being an empty term.

For example, looking at what you said below:
Donna Brewington White said:

Thought leadership doesn't involve "followers." It's not that type of leadership -- it's more about people embracing the ideas that validates the "leadership."


What is "Leadership" than? In either case, whether "thought leader" or plain 'ol "leader" - you say that leadership needs validation.

So let me ask you this: Some 13 year-old blogger - in his mother's basement - posts an entry (posing as a professional recruiter) on "Recruiting Blogs". He writes about how he thinks recruiters need to start wearing pink shirts in their website head-shots to acquire clients.

The fad begins: Recruiter after recruiter starts posting a head-shot to their website wearing pink. Turns out, the clientele - on average - increases.

The blogger is recognized as a "thought leader" because his idea was validated by people taking his idea and putting into practice. But in reality, the majority of those recruiters didn't have a head-shot on their web page in the first place - and by adding that personal touch (not adding pink) attracted clients.

So - getting back to my question: What distinguishes 'real thought leaders' from the 13 year-old blogger?
Well put - having been around this industry 30 years I've got cynical recently - Thought Leaders (generalisation alert) tend to be "sole traders/consultants etc" and run "consulting firms". Doers tend to run and build companies.

Now a good doer can learn a lot from listening and learning from "thought leaders" but they have a more entrepreneurial DNA.

Now as a Brit but a well travelled one (lived for 2 years in US) my perspective is that you have far more "thought leaders" there than we do over here (per head of the recruiting population).

Now this could also be a cultural issue; Americans are way better at “personal branding/marketing” you are better at selling yourselves and what you know. An example of this is how many bloggers there are in the US recruiting and careers space, Andy Headworth and myself recently calculated that in the UK we have 30 max, in my reader from the US I have 100’s.

So maybe a “thought leader” is a generator of great ideas BUT also gets how to market them..

Again some huge generalisations I know but the impressions of an old man.
Okay. I'd propose a definition of "Thought Leader" as "A person who markets ideas".

Fair?


Keith Robinson said:
So maybe a “thought leader” is a generator of great ideas BUT also gets how to market them..

Again some huge generalisations I know but the impressions of an old man.
What if they don't sell?

Perhaps a Thought Leader is one who markets ideas that become successful practices. Ergo a thought leader can not become one without the actions of the doers.

Sean Ryan said:
Okay. I'd propose a definition of "Thought Leader" as "A person who markets ideas".

Fair?


Keith Robinson said:
So maybe a “thought leader” is a generator of great ideas BUT also gets how to market them..

Again some huge generalisations I know but the impressions of an old man.
I'd say the adage that 'a leader cannot become a leader without the actions of the doers' is true for every type of leader. But I think a leader of any stripe is distinguished by more than simply "doers" who take the idea and run.

I'd go back to my question of the 13-year-old blogger that says recruiters should wear pink in head-shots to attract clients. If his idea is acted upon by doers, and they think it's working - is the 13-year-old, by definition, a "Thought Leader"? (someone who 'successfully markets ideas')

If not, what distinguishes "Thought Leaders" from 13-year-old bloggers? The 13-year-old spawned success...


Sandra McCartt said:
What if they don't sell?

Perhaps a Thought Leader is one who markets ideas that become successful practices. Ergo a thought leader can not become one without the actions of the doers.

Sean Ryan said:
Okay. I'd propose a definition of "Thought Leader" as "A person who markets ideas".

Fair?


Keith Robinson said:
So maybe a “thought leader” is a generator of great ideas BUT also gets how to market them..

Again some huge generalisations I know but the impressions of an old man.

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