Thinking is hard work, which is why so few people do it. (Henry Ford)

I saw a profile on LinkedIn the other day describing the person who posted it as a thought and people leader. I’m certain the gentleman who posted it is many things, most of which are likely good, constructive, perhaps singularly brilliant. I’m equally certain he’s anything but a leader of anything or anyone, particularly as it pertains to thinking.

If we acknowledge anyone as a thought leader, we become thought followers. That might be constructive. Maybe we’ll learn something. It might make the person from whom we learn it a teacher, an expert, an authority. But a leader? Why? How?

No one’s going to lead us. And the only way we’ll ever lead is by example. You will have to think. But then you have to work. You have to learn — about what you have to offer; about why you want to offer it; about why you can offer it better, more persuasively, and more cost-effectively than the other guy; about your value; and about who will want what you offer and why. You have to plan, execute, observe, adjust, execute some more, observe some more, adjust some more, and never quit.

If you do all those things, someone might notice. If enough people notice, a percentage of them might buy your offering. If you’re really lucky, enough people might notice and buy your offering that your brand will achieve some prominence. If it does, it’s likely you will, too. And if you do, it’ll only be a matter of time before someone calls you a thought leader. Don’t fall for it.

You will not have achieved as much as you have by posing as a thought leader. You will have achieved it by working your tail off, borrowing some ideas, and coming up with the rest on your own. Like the proverbial overnight success, thought leadership is a fallacy. It’s also a waste of time because all the good stuff happens in reality.

If  you’re still angling toward thought leadership, cue Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands” and turn it up really loud:

Workin’ in the fields till you get your back burned,
Workin’ ‘neath the wheel till you get your facts learned.
Baby, I got my facts learned real good right now.
You better get it straight, darling:
Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king.
And a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything.
I wanna go out tonight,
I wanna find out what I got.

It couldn’t hurt.

By Craig ONeal (The Boss~Live!) via Wikimedia Commons.