“Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.”
It’s virtually impossible to visit any corner of the Business/Entrepreneurship/Management Web without someone
announcing themselves to be a ‘Thought Leader’. In theory, the clash of ideas and viewpoints would lead to the annihilation of the weakest, and, persons who championed the better ideas will have earned the title “Thought Leaders”.
As we well know, theory and practice are not the same thing.
In the real world, silly ideas can spread like an oil fire (remember ‘planking’) and bad ideas can last for generations. Why? Probably, because we think with our thoughts but we don’t always question the nature or substance of our thoughts. Any idea we have that is validated by even a small group becomes precious and even more tied to our ego.
Herewith are three thoughts that potential thought leaders need to fully think about before they publicize their thoughts. Yes, the previous sentence does actually make sense.
Are your thoughts built on a False Premise?
The premise, aerial bombing will break an enemy’s will/ability to fight. A closer examination does not bear this out.
In World War I, Germany bombs England from airships (zepplins). At the time this is a totally new aspect of war but does not stop England and its allies from ultimately winning.
In World War II The Germans carpet bomb parts of England, the English and Americans return the favour by bombing German cities. Neither side’s will is broken.
The Vietnam War. The world’s most powerful airforce bomb the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong at every opportunity. The South Vietnamese government, despite years of financial and military aid from the U.S, collapses in 1973.
The Global War on Terror (Iraq part II, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc) Remote controlled drones now make ‘surgical strikes’ with guided missiles. When will this war end and what will victory look like? No one seems to know.
Aerial bombing is useful in some ways but the idea that it can break an enemy’s will to fight has been proven wrong on multiple occasions. The premise, however wrong is still the basis for international policy 100 years after it was conceived.
Are your thoughts based on accurate data and is your interpretation of the data correct.
The Conservative author David Brooks has made a career of sharing his thoughts on various aspects of American culture and a need to ‘reform’ it. His book, “The Road to Character” cites a study that seeks to show how self-absorbed Americans have become.
The problem is, the interpretation of the study* is so wrong it requires a separate article**. There have been multiple opportunities for fact checking and correction, but the error in “The Road to Character” has never been addressed.
This misinterpretation/misrepresentation of the data -whether deliberate or not- will be the basis for many misinformed opinions about young americans for years to come.
Are your thoughts stated in such a way that your followers can easily adhere to them?
While it might not be a thought leader’s fault if adherents warp your teachings, some ideas are easier to twist than others.
The instances where followers go off on a tangent or even worse in the opposite direction are many. The most recent historical example is the patron saint of conservative american politics, President Ronald Reagan. Reagan is best remembered for his trickle down economics, rabid anti-tax stance and his firm belief in a strong military, which he used to invade Grenada.
Fast forward to today and there is little mention that Ronald Reagan negotiated several weapons treaties with the Soviet Union (which he called the ‘Evil Empire’) and raised taxes eleven times in eight years (There are two sides to this story. Interested persons can read them at the links below).
Those who proselytize in Reagan’s name today, do so while ignoring his actual accomplishments in terms of peace and his nation’s economics.
Thought Leadership is not an easy task. The would-be Thought Leader must avoid falling in love with his thoughts to the extent that he is blinded to faults or weaknesses in his ideas. Scepticism with your own ideas is harder to do than it appears but those who do will have weeded out the weakest one and have earned the title of Thought Leader.
Now share your thoughts on Thought Leadership in the comment section.
*Link to the actual study is here
**Article on David Brooks vs The Truth can be read here.
Reagan taxes – liberal view
Reagan taxes – conservative view