Thought Leaders – An Unused Pond Stinks

Occasionally, I’m asked if I consider myself to be a thought leader. Some ask how I became a thought leader.

Recently, I was asked where the courage to be a thought leader comes from. I remembered a campfire.


It doesn't take courage to be wrong, just willingness to learn.


I stared into the campfire while my former boss asked if I was worried that I might contradict something I had previously written. He said that he would.

It seemed an odd question. Without thinking, I blurted, “I hope I contradict myself.”

Overhead, the Milky Way didn’t flinch.  


Do I think of myself as a thought leader? Don’t be ridiculous.

I’m thankful to have something to offer, but anyone who sets out to be a thought leader is a divot. Edward De Bono was right, “Those who think they know, don’t.”

If anyone thinks I’m a thought leader, that’s their thought, not mine.

It’s a privilege and responsibility to be sought out for advice, coaching, or presentations. But those privileges never occurred to me when I started writing.

Milky Way

The Milky Way didn't flinch.

Self-limiting need:

The courage to be considered a ‘thought leader’ has little to do with thinking right thoughts and everything to do with willingness to be wrong.

It doesn’t take courage to be wrong, just willingness.

My former boss revealed a self-limiting need many leaders feel – the need to be right. But if you already know, you can’t learn. If you can’t learn, you don’t grow.

What doesn’t grow decays.

I’ve talked with stagnant people. Like job candidates, their only mistakes are caring too much and working too hard.

An unused pond stinks.

Earn respect for your thoughts:

  1. Be wrong with forward-facing optimism.
  2. Tell people what you’re learning. On many days that’s all I do.

Amy Edmondson on the power of being wrong. (Check out my Santa beard!)

Mike Howard, the former Chief Security Officer of Microsoft, “I didn’t want to look stupid.”


What’s behind our need to be right?

How might leaders be wrong in a leaderly way?