Who gets to be a thought leader?


There seems to be some debate and/or concern lately about who gets to share their ideas.  Who should have influence.  Who qualifies as a thought leader. (read here, here and here for some background)

As little as 20 years ago, only a select few people had a voice.   It was those with money or access to a finite number of media channels.

Today that’s completely different.  Anybody with a free WordPress or Twitter or Facebook account can publish, grow an audience, share contrarian views on anything. You can create your own television program via YouTube.  Your own radio program via a podcast.  Your own newspaper via a blog or newsletter.  You can even publish a book without a publisher.  We truly live in amazing times.

Of course, this apparently means people who 20 years ago likely wouldn’t have earned or afforded a media channel now have one.  People you disagree with are far more likely to have access to your customers and prospects and other constituents.

This is exciting and scary.

Plenty of people have access to all of these new tools yet fail to generate an audience.  But there are still others who earn that audience to your complete annoyance and consternation.

You think they are full of it.  They haven’t earned it.  They pretend to know something they don’t.

There’s one way to take away their power and influence – stop listening.  But if others are listening, and still more continue listening, that might mean they have something interesting to say.  Something that – for some reason – is striking a chord.

I don’t get to choose who becomes a thought leader.  Neither do you.  But together – and with the millions of people in your industry who decide where to focus their increasingly fragmented time – we choose who has influence.

We will never agree that everybody deserves it.  But I for one am grateful and appreciative that I get to hear and learn from so many more voices, so many diverse perspectives, to hopefully make my own work (and life) richer and more impactful.