Thought leaders need thought partners

Thought leaders need thought partners
March 27, 2024 Beth Nyland

So, you want to be a thought leader …
Or maybe you feel pressure to become one …
Or perhaps you’ve already reached this place of influence …

Whatever your status on this continuum, as thought leader you’ll find yourself with a fascinating yet perpetual to-do list:

  • Consider circumstances as they are
  • Explore possibilities for change
  • Formulate ideas based on your experience and expertise
  • Envision and describe the world as it could be
  • Inspire others to see and talk about this potential
  • Expand and enrich your point of view as the conversation continues

It’s a lot of work—not just thinking but turning those thoughts into attention-getting content your target audience will be eager to consume. And these tasks likely sit alongside your day job, which no doubt is demanding, hectic, and downright intense.

Lucky for you, one simple action can bring ease, power, and greater satisfaction to all these tasks, strengthening your efforts to achieve and maintain your status as a thought leader:

Get yourself a thought partner.

Here are 4 reasons thought leaders need thought partners:

1. Two-way dialogue is more enlightening (and enjoyable) than one-way monologue.

Listen to the sound of your own voice long enough and you become stir crazy in your own brain. With a conversational collaborator, you gain the advantage of another voice, another personality, another perspective.

While your own thoughts may echo verbatim, a thought partner can paraphrase and reframe your ideas. Together, you can discover what might get lost in translation, and reword or reorganize ideas so they will come across the way you intend.

2. A thought partner will invite you to explore new angles.

Have you ever been struck momentarily silent by a question or comment? The kind that made you think, “Wow! I never thought about it that way.” That’s precisely what you want from a thought partner: Someone who will stop you in your tracks with an unexpected observation that prompts you to double back or explore a new path—one you might not have discovered on your own.

Choose a thought partner who’s intelligent and genuinely curious, but not expert in your field. That distance from your subject matter—paired with bold, honest questions—will open fascinating lines of inquiry.

3. Your deep expertise in one area will benefit from balance in another.

As well-versed as you are in your field of specialty, you may be a relative amateur in others. Take communication, for example. Unless you happen to be a leader in the field, you may not have extensive experience vaulting ideas into the world.

When considering how to deliver your thought leadership to the public, be honest about your comfort, skill, and connections. If blogging or publishing, are you an excellent writer? If talking on stages or screens, are you an accomplished speaker? If seeking interviews with reporters or podcasters, do you know how to get that airtime, and do you have the relationships to make it happen? If leaning into social media, do you know what will satisfy an algorithm and engage an ever-scrolling audience?

Don’t shortchange your message by trying to DIY its distribution.

If your organization has an in-house team or agency of record with communication expertise, enlist their help. If not, hire a consultant you can trust with your valuable knowledge and professional reputation.

4. Your partnership can go beyond thoughts to actions.

The role of thought partner is part sounding board, part skill developer, part cheering squad, part motivational coach. But first and foremost, it’s to be your partner. Not to do things for you, but to see you get things done.

That’s why the best thought partner is also an accountability partner, holding you responsible for taking the steps required to formulate and share your thoughts with the world. When you set a schedule for creating and sharing content, for example, they will nudge you to stick to it. Bonus: They will be among the first to like, share, comment, and applaud your efforts.

If you’re a thought leader (or caretaker of your organization’s thought leadership program), what tasks on your to-do list would benefit from a thought partner? I’d be honored to help.


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