There are in fact two types of logic for pursuing thought leadership. The first type of logic considers thought leadership as a positioning strategy. In a time in which people are keen on hearing refreshing viewpoints, it is a new way for organisations to raise their profile and set themselves apart from competitors. By articulating refreshing viewpoints and relevant insights, organisations seek to be seen as the ‘trusted voice’ on the problems and issues that matter to their clients and stakeholders. We call this type of logic ‘strategic-driven thought leadership’.
The second type of logic views thought leadership not just as a positioning strategy; but as a strategy for driving change. Organisations are prepared to openly challenge the status quo and bring about substantial change, starting with their own strategic choices, practices and cultures. They are convinced of a future reality that does not yet exist, and are therefore willing to take a leap of faith into this unknown reality. It is precisely because of this that we refer to this type of logic as ‘transformation-driven thought leadership’.
At the Dutch School of Thought, it is our vision that both types of logic should go together. A positioning view on thought leadership alone is problematic as it ignores the transformative landscape that we are in and the mounting expectations set by stakeholders to be a positive force in these changes. We also distance ourselves from a purely transformative focus without involving the competitive landscape in which a company operates. A strictly revolutionary understanding of thought leadership without appreciating a positioning focus is an artificial demarcation of our reality, simply because organisations have to survive in an increasingly more competitive landscape. We need both types of logic and leaders and communication professionals who challenge their organisations to embrace both types of logic.