Thought leaders: Q&A with Raj Bowen
The underlying competencies for thought leadership are the ability to use insightful judgment, think strategically and with a global perspective
What is the genesis of thought leadership and how is it different from the traditional concepts of leadership?
Most organizations necessarily make a lot of noise as they go about their business. There are a few who make music and these few represent the ‘thought leaders’ for their businesses. It is not so much a ‘concept of leadership’ as it is a way of doing your business. Individual thought leadership points to those researchers and gurus, who have committed their life, study and work, to staying ahead of the knowledge curve, in the art and science of business and generate guidelines of the best ways of building sustainable and profitable businesses.
Do we have a framework in place to identify thought leaders? How can we groom thought leaders for the future?
Organizational thought leadership makes limited sense when viewed in isolation. It represents a cornerstone of a framework that has been researched by PDI Ninth House, as consisting of three other elements - results leadership, people leadership and personal leadership. Our global research with best-in-class companies point out to the reality that the framework would take different nuances across levels in the organization. For illustration, at the business unit leader level, the underlying competencies for thought leadership are the ability to use insightful judgment, think strategically, apply financial acumen, innovate and display global perspective.
How well is thought leadership placed to positively impact an organization and help it meet its strategic objectives?
An organization’s ability to really leverage its thought leadership resources optimally is a direct function of not only the CEO’s personal championing of the stated vision, but also the culture that the senior leadership team endorses. Elements of the culture that can enable or derail an organization’s thought leadership would be:
Candor- Do people talk freely about expectations, work performance and development needs?
Trust- Do leaders walk their talk and do they look out for others’ interests?
Curiosity- Do people explore new ideas and question existing ways of doing things?
Flexibility- Do leaders encourage a level of risk taking and trying new things?
Accountability- Are people at all levels (held) accountable for meeting objectives and delivering on their commitments?
What are the long-term payoffs for developing thought leaders and how can organizations use them as their USP?
Industry leaders, who support the identification and development of thought leadership abilities in their talent pools, understand that this is always going to be a moving target. By definition, all USP’s are temporary and the only one which really holds the longest for any organization is the strength of its leadership caliber, across levels - the only loaded anchor in a fast flowing river of change.