What makes a thought leader? On the surface it has a lot in common with what you’d look for in a cult leader – charming, charismatic and strong. But you want something more when it comes to a legitimate movement; the courage to leave room for debates and arguments. Being perfectly comfortable being confronted by those who critique whatever he/she’s put forward.

Thought leader – the creation

It’s someone who, over the years, has built on an ideology or created one from scratch by observing the world. This followed by deconstructing it through whatever lens they chose works best. This lens they constructed (or altered) because none of the existing theories were deemed sufficient. None of the existing frameworks represented what this individual is seeing. This person believes it to be closer to ‘truth’ then what’s already out there. Truth should be the main driver as opposed to forever dynamic attitudes, politics and agendas connected to these.

You have a range of thought leaders; no doubt their pull comes from the passion and belief they have in their own arguments. These people get tested over time, first by perhaps the people around them, the media and whether it is appropriate or not – academics. At some point it is no longer about spreading your ideas about the world, it’s about defending them. No theory is without holes, but all social theories hold an agenda. Whether good or bad, the one who preaches them will, of course, believe it’s the right philosophy to go with.

Observing the world

Theories of thought leaders

These days if your theory doesn’t have roots in facts i.e. something that can be measured and proven, we are far more likely to cast it aside. ‘Hovering’ theories that are not rooted anywhere are simply rejected. Socrates, as a Thought Leader didn’t pull his beliefs out of a black hole. He observed his surroundings then and there and pulled conclusions out of the things he witnessed. He was able to explain his theories which utmost precision simply because his method of deconstruction and reconstruction was so meticulously thought-out.

I’ve by now come across a whole range of Thought Leaders, many of whom I listen to religiously, whether the ideologies they are espousing are beautiful and beneficial or downright terrifying. If there is one thing I’d like these people to have is not charisma or even the strongest and most far-reaching knowledge but the ability to put themselves in a position where they are vulnerable – in front of critics.

Good critics, who are able to poke holes into the argument, I don’t need them to be foolproof; they don’t need an answer to every criticism. I need Thought Leaders at times to simply shrug and say that there are parts they simply don’t have an answer for. Accept that there are fragments of their beliefs that are still weak and points they simply haven’t accounted for rather than talking for the sake of arguing. Arguing for the sake of reputation.

A certain intellectual integrity goes a long way where you, by being the exception become the example.