Robert Bacal in Directors and Executives, Human Resources Professionals, Managers Book author • McGraw Hill, Complete Idiot's Guides Sep 23, 2016 · 1 min read · +900

If You Call Yourself A Thought Leader, You Aren't One - Bacal's Briefs

If You Call Yourself A Thought Leader, You Aren't One - Bacal's BriefsYesterday I was chatting with a four year old boy, and I asked him that question that all kids eventually tire of. Him, not yet. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked. He replied: "A fireman, and a farmer", he answered. Obviously he'd heard this question before, since he really didn't have to think about it. He was adamant he would do both. You have to love youthful ambition.

So, I asked him if he'd also like to be a "thought leader". This stumped him for a moment, but for just a moment. "Do 'ought leaders drive tractors? was his question. I said, "Sometimes". That seemed good enough for him, so he said: "Well, I want to be a fireman, a farmer AND a 'ought leader."

I figure he must know as much about thought leadership as anyone. It really has no meaning, except to brand the phrase, when used about oneself, as a blatant attempt to sound much more important than one actually is.

Some Words Need To Be Bestowed By Others

Some characterizations need to be given by others, not oneself. "Thought leader" is one, simply because it's a judgement call that one cannot make about oneself and sound intelligent. "Expert" is another.

In my speaking engagements and training sessions, I ask that I NEVER be introduced as an expert. That should and will be determined by the other people in the room, and not by me. Besides, there's no way I want anyone to think that I think I'm an expert in anything, based on what I say. It sounds pompous, self-congratulatory, and people tend to want to take self-proclaimed experts down a peg.


I don't know about others, but when I see people self-proclaiming themselves as "thought leaders", I know enough to realize that if they think they need to announce that themselves, they clearly are NOT thought leaders. Much more likely they are trying much too hard to market themselves, and really don't have original thoughts, or leadership ability.

I'd much rather someone say: "I'm an !#&hole", and I'm much more inclined to read or listen to people who don't feel the need to jack themselves up with silly self-commendations.

Well, got to go. My tractor is waiting for me.

Bacal's Briefs is an occasional column of short thoughts. I write it seated on my tractor. For more articles on customer service, management and leadership and employment engagement, click on the linked words.

Kevin Pashuk Sep 23, 2016 · #5

#2 Years ago, my mentor told not to aspire to be an expert. After all, 'X' is an unknown quantity, and a 'spurt' is a little drip under pressure.

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Neil Smith Sep 23, 2016 · #4

You are absolutely spot on @Robert Bacal. Along with claiming to be a great cook or a fabulous lover "Thought leader" is only true when someone else says it of you.

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Robert Bacal Sep 23, 2016 · #3

#2 I never thought of that, @Ken Boddie. I think that's a great idea.

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Ken Boddie Sep 23, 2016 · #2

I prefer to use 'specialist' rather than 'expert', Robert. One label is fact, the other judgemental, and not always in a good way. 😕
Now, about that tractor - it it's fire engine red and has a siren, can I drive it when I grow up? 😊

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Pascal Derrien Sep 23, 2016 · #1

my daughter calls them ''soaked leaders''

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