thought leadership

Thought Leadership or Membership?

If you had a Fitbit for your brain, which measured everything you read, thought, wrote and published, I wonder what it would tell you. Would it reveal that you’re on top of your game? Or, in my case, would it reveal that you are merely adding more padding to what has already been said a few hundred times with only slight variation in word choice and metaphor?

I’ve written hundreds of articles, about dozens of topics, within the range of skills and industries where I concentrate. I’ve also written dozens, if not hundreds of articles, blog posts, insights, diagnostics and prescriptive papers for at least 50, if not 100 different clients over the years.

My approach has always been to try as hard as I can to help isolate unique insights and take a different cognitive path to understand things more holistically. I’ve tried to help elevate my client’s position through their content. I’ve been trying to create what we all call “Thought Leadership.”

Although, I as I turn my focus inward and I think about how I want to lay out my plan of attack, the term “Thought Leadership” begins to feel elusive — and distant. Perhaps I have thought about it too hard. I have been known to do that from time to time.

What I am realizing as I read all that is available to me online and in the 280 business books on my shelves, is that I am not reading or writing “Thought Leadership,” I am actually participating in what I am calling, “Thought Membership.” I am saying essentially the same thing that I read somewhere else because when I read it, I had that fleeting feeling that I should have written that. I sure as hell have thought about it enough!

This is the point. I have always been told that if I want to write meaningfully, or to create something a little more profound, I have to read every day and I have to write twice as long as I read. I don’t really do this — even though I know I should. I also don’t run five miles a day or limit myself to kale and steamed broccoli.

So with this deeply personal acknowledgement, that I am am mostly — merely writing Thought Membership, I have set up a few new rules to consciously move out of Thought Membership and to start creating more Thought Leadership. Here are my rules:

  • Create my own conservative interest taxonomy — a list of a few interesting and meaningful topics that I want to write about, which I believe may elevate personal thought leadership quotient (a fully made up term).
  • Spend 1/2 the time reading about the topics on my taxonomy than I spend in analysis or lateral research.
  • Spend 2x the time formulating what I consider to be unique and meaningful insights from what I read and analyze.
  • Get my cohorts (colleagues, friends and industry peers) to sound off on what I am creating while I make a reciprocal promise to return the favor.
  • Publish only the things that I feel are contributing beyond Thought Membership while spending more time commenting on the thoughts and insights my cohorts publish — helping them to elevate themselves as well.

Hopefully these steps will help me and those whose writing I care to read and internalize create a cycle that pulls more of us out of the empty echo-chamber of Thought Membership and up into the space where more of us are trying harder to improve the meaning and value of our voices.

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