Thought leadership practitioners tend to be very busy people. But over my twenty years in the field, I’ve noticed that it’s rare for people to stop and think about strategy.
They’re constantly focused on their next “big thing,” whatever that is: writing the next book; delivering the next speech; creating the next video or podcast; or planning the next event.
When you focus on assets and events, you narrow your thinking. You put one foot in front of the other, never looking to the horizon and saying, “what’s next? Where are we going? And what’s possible?”
Instead, you should be asking yourself, “how can we change the world with our ideas? How will we get others excited to join us?”
In the classic business book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about Big Hairy Audacious Goals – BHAGs he calls them. And these goals aren’t designed to create incremental results such as increase revenue by 4% or launch a new product in the second quarter. BHAGs are ambitious goals. They seem difficult perhaps even impossible to achieve. They’re designed to rally people around a cause and inspire them. Collins talks about moonshot projects in the 1960s. And today, we might think of a mission to Mars or cures for cancer.
And that’s why strategy becomes so essential for thought leadership. We have to raise our eyes from the day-to-day tasks and think about what we’re really trying to achieve. We have to pick a spot over the horizon and chart a course there. An ambitious goal simply isn’t enough. We need a strategy to turn it into reality. Sail towards a destination — an idea so big that others ask, “is that even possible? How will we get there?” Capture their imaginations, and then show them how!
Children who play the game “Clue” need to be clear about “who” they accuse as the murderer. And thought leadership practitioners need to be clear on who they’re targeting before they design campaigns and assets.