Thought leader

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For the South African news website, see Thought Leader.

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.[1] The Oxford English Dictionary gives as its first citation for the phrase an 1887 description of Henry Ward Beecher as "one of the great thought-leaders in America." But it was revived or reinvented by marketers in the 1980s; in a 1990 article in the Wall Street Journal Marketing section, Patrick Reilly used the term "thought leader publications" to refer to such magazines as Harper's.[2]

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.[3][4]

Thought leadership is often used as a way of increasing or creating demand for a product or service. High tech firms often publish white papers with analyses of the economic benefits of their products as a form of marketing. These are distinct from technical white papers. Consulting firms frequently publish house reports, e.g. The McKinsey Quarterly,[5] A.T. Kearney Executive Agenda,[6] Booz & Co Strategy and Business[7] (now being acquired by PriceWaterhouseCoopers), or Deloitte Review[8] where they publish the results of research, new management models and examples of the use of consulting methodologies.[9] New York Times' columnist David Brooks mocked the lifecycle of the role in a satirical column entitled "The Thought Leader," published in December 2013.[10]

Some infer a negative connotation in the term's structural similarity with dystopic terms originating in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four such as thoughtcrime and thought police.[11]

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. ^ Carey McWilliams (1951) "Government by Whitaker and Baxter II", The Nation, page 367, April 21
  4. ^ Scott Cutlip (1994) The Unseen Power, page 607
  5. ^ "McKinsey Quarterly | McKinsey & Company". 2013-10-06. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  6. ^ "Executive Agenda ® - A.T. Kearney". 2011-03-11. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  7. ^ Ludwig, Helmuth (2014-02-11). "strategy+business: international business strategy news articles and award-winning analysis". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  8. ^ "Deloitte Review - A semiannual publication for business leaders". Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ David Brooks, "The Thought Leader", The New York Times, December 17, 2013.
  11. ^ Cheryl Pass "‘Thought Leaders’: Orwell’s 1984 Moves To The 21st Century", Freedom Outpost, October 11, 2012

Further reading[edit]