Scroll Top

The Difference Between Subject Matter Expert and a Thought Leader

So, I’ve got a question (help, please?).
What’s a good way to explain the difference between a subject matter expert (SME) and a thought leader?
This question came up in conversation recently and I needed a clean, 30 second answer.
I’d love your suggestions.

Here’s what I came up with in the moment:

It comes down to tools.🔨

A SME is a hands-on practitioner who solves problems.
The SME actively gathers, creates, and uses tools to solve the problems they encounter.
The SME constantly add tools to their toolbox 🧰 so that *they* can solve tougher problems better/faster.

A thought leader is also interested in new tools.
When they gather or create a useful tool, they add it to their *own* toolbox. 🧰
But the thought leader doesn’t stop there.
They spend much of their time evangelizing 📢 the new tool.
They want to make sure that *everyone* who needs the tool has it in their toolbox.
The thought leader take tools (ideas/insights) to scale.

Is there a better way to describe the difference:
SME vs. thought leader

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Quick note: a tool doesn’t have to be a literal tool. It can be an insight, a point of view, a process, a framework, etc.

#ThoughtLeadership #OrgTL #ThoughtLeader #Expertise