Thought leader

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A thought leader has been described as an individual or firm recognized as an authority in a specific field[1] and also as business jargon.


Go-to expert[edit]

From the perspective of a thought leader as the 'go-to expert', being a thought leader means to consistently answer the biggest questions on the minds of the target audience on a particular topic. Thought leaders are commonly asked to speak at public events, conferences, or webinars to share their insight with a relevant audience. In a 1990 Wall Street Journal Marketing section article, Patrick Reilly used the term "thought leader publications" to refer to such magazines as Harper's.[2]

In the previous decade, the term was revived and re-engineered by marketers.[citation needed]

Criticism of the phrase and concept[edit]

The phrase "thought leader" is identified by some writers as an annoying example of business jargon.[3] Kevin Money and Nuno Da Camara of the John Madejski Centre for Reputation at the University of Reading's Henley Management College write that the nebulous nature of the phrase (the unclear nature of "what is and what is not thought leadership") contributes to its reputation among cynics as "meaningless management speak."[4] Some writers, such as Harvard Business Review contributor Dorie Clark, have defended the phrase while agreeing "that it is very icky when people call themselves thought leaders because that sounds a little bit egomaniacal."[5] New York Times columnist David Brooks mocked the lifecycle of the role in a satirical column entitled "The Thought Leader," published in December 2013.[6]

A parody on the term was published in 2016 by Pat Kelly on Canadian television's This Is That program. In the process of the discussion, imitating TED talks, Kelly elicits responses from the audience that exemplify the effect he describes as the result of applying well-known marketing techniques to achieve the impression of being an erudite speaker.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What Is A Thought Leader?". Forbes. 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2014-02-15.
  2. ^ Patrick Reilly, "'Thought' Magazines Weather Ad Storms." Wall Street Journal, Nov. 9, 1990
  3. ^ "Attention Thought Leaders and Evangelists: Your Business Jargon Is Annoying". NFIB. National Federation of Independent Business. 2015-12-03. Retrieved 2022-03-30.
  4. ^ Kevin Money & Nuno Da Camara, Comment: Is thought leadership a cutting edge strategy or meaningless management speak? Financial Times (December 2, 2007).
  5. ^ Why the Term "Thought Leader" Isn't Gross, Harvard Business Review Ideacast (Dorie Clark interview by Sarah Green Carmichael) (October 1, 2015).
  6. ^ David Brooks, "The Thought Leader", The New York Times, December 17, 2013.
  7. ^ "This deconstruction of all TED Talks is itself the ideal TED Talk". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2022-01-12.

Further reading[edit]