Can you have thought leadership without a thought leader?

Blog post

Think back to the last time you read something that caused you to reassess some aspect of your approach to your work or personal life. Got it? Next question: did you have a strong sense of the individual behind the message, or was it written by a faceless organisation? My guess is, based on my own experience and that of my informal focus group (causing disruption in the office yet again!), that you felt you were being spoken to by an individual.

So why do so many of us feel that we have to publish material written by ‘the firm’? Even though I read more thought leadership from each firm than I’m guessing even most of their own employees do, I can point to very few thought leaders. The ones that do stand out in my mind are some of the researchers and writers at Deloitte University Press who are regularly writing pieces on their topics of interest and whose work is clearly ascribed to them. However, this handful of experts aside, I would struggle to point you to other thought leaders.

So what gets in the way? Based on my conversations with firms, it’s partly that this is the way it’s always been done and partly fear of creating an expert, building up their market value, and watching them take that value with them as they walk away from the firm. It is a risk, but look at it from the other side: if you were a true expert in your field, which firm would you want to work for – the one that put you behind the faceless façade or the one that let you develop your expertise in the market place?