Thought Leadership – An expression of insight
Member firm professionals across the global UHY network write blogs, contribute to articles, speak at events, produce reports and much more.
All this activity might be best summed up in the term ‘thought leadership’. This is a well-worn phrase these days – it might be described by one person as the expression of expertise, and by another as the expression of opinion.
Someone else might insist that anyone who has a blog or podcast on a single subject is a thought leader. These can all be very different things, but they are credited as thought leadership anyway.
Insight Is Key
To my mind, there is a little more to it than that. A thought leader certainly needs to have wide experience of their subject matter, and they also need to think deeply about it. Through practice, research and discussion, they strive to acquire meaningful insight. The final piece in the jigsaw is the desire to share that insight with others.
In this interpretation, a blog can contain thought leadership, but not every blog – and in fact not many blogs – will. An article qualifies for the title only if it contains insight in terms of a fresh angle, an against-the-grain opinion, or a new approach to an old problem.
Thought leaders use their expertise to explain and inform. They answer the questions their audience asks. They deliver authentic content. But they should also provide something that their readers, listeners or viewers will not easily find elsewhere.
Good For Business
In this way, thought leadership becomes useful for both authors and audience. The audience gets potentially useful insight. The authors refine their thinking by testing it in the real world, and are seen as authorities on the subject.
Acquiring such a reputation can certainly be good for business. Organisations, brands and individuals all use thought leadership to increase their standing among customers, clients, targets and peers. Thought leadership is a way to show that you understand your customer’s challenges, or that you recognise and understand new developments in the sector. It shows your authority and authority inspires trust.
The usefulness of thought leadership is amplified by the ubiquity of digital and social media. In the past, a CEO might write an article for the company magazine or website and a handful of people would see it. Today, an interesting opinion, shared widely on LinkedIn and Twitter, can start a wide-ranging conversation and be seen by hundreds or thousands of interested parties.
Many years ago, thought leadership had a narrower meaning. It tended to be applied only to major new pieces of research. It was leadership because it moved the profession forward, shed light on an unexplored topic and was entirely original. Thought leadership was the preserve of large firms with big research budgets.
The democratisation of thought leadership is no bad thing. The advance of a profession should not be led solely by the operators with the deepest pockets. We all have a stake in the future, and we should all have the opportunity to be part of the debate.
It is good that the term is now used more loosely, but the word ‘leadership’ should not be ignored. Thought leaders add something to the discussion, rather than just regurgitating information that has been expressed many times before.
Shaping The Future
What they add does not have to be ground-breaking or even surprising. But in its small way it should move the debate forward.
It could be an anecdote that illuminates the benefits of a new networking opportunity. It could be a fresh, well considered opinion on a piece of controversial finance legislation. It could be a case study that describes how a firm managed to overcome a unique or unusual challenge. In our magazine UHY Global we encourage readers to think about the impacts and opportunities for their business from external issues and commercial change around the world.
It could be a thousand things, but those who read or hear it should go away with something to think about, and the sense that they have been presented with a new idea or way of doing things. They might not agree with the new angle or fresh approach described in the piece, but they will understand that it adds something to the conversation.
There are few great leaps forward, in business as in life. Instead, the future is reached through many incremental steps. A well-expressed article or conference presentation, written or given by an expert with insight, can help set the direction of travel. That is the aim of thought leadership, and it is why UHY professionals are keen to be part of the discussion.
For more information, contact Alan Farrelly, Managing Director, UHY Farrelly Dawe White Limited firstname.lastname@example.org