A thought leader can refer to an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. The term was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine Strategy & Business, and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas which merited attention.
Author and New York Times columnist David Brooks, generally considered a thought leader himself, mocked the lifecycle of the role in a sarcastic column entitled "The Thought Leader," published in December 2013.
The term is sometimes used to characterize leaders of service clubs, officers of veterans' organizations, of civic organizations, of women's clubs, lodges, regional officials and insurance executives.
- Kurtzman, J. (2010) Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organisations to Achieve the Extraordinary, ISBN 978-0-470-49009-9
- David Brooks, "The Thought Leader", The New York Times, December 17, 2013.
- Cheryl Pass "‘Thought Leaders’: Orwell’s 1984 Moves To The 21st Century", Freedom Outpost, October 11, 2012
- Carey McWilliams (1951) "Government by Whitaker and Baxter II", The Nation, page 367, April 21
- Scott Cutlip (1994) The Unseen Power, page 607