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Thought Leadership Isn’t Artifacts, it’s Insights

Thought leadership has long been identified with the artifacts it produces — the book, the whitepaper, the TEDx talk, the article, etc.

I think that’s partly because people struggle to articulate what a thought leadership strategy is (or what it looks like).

And so, it’s easy to focus on creating more artifacts.

📚 Let’s write another book, whitepaper, etc.!

🎙 Let’s speak at another conference!

💻 Let’s host another webinar!

🐦 Let’s tweet more often!

But these are all activities.

They’re not thought leadership.

Here’s the trap.

At best, each of those activities are empty containers — places that you can pour your thought leadership insights into.

Imagine what would happen if Amazon thought its purpose was to ship boxes 📦 to every house in the US.

And they set out to maximize the # of boxes shipped.

It wouldn’t matter if:

❌ many of the boxes were empty.
🐱‍🐉 some of the boxes had weird, random stuff in it
🎮 very few boxes contained what people actually ordered.

They just set a stretch goal to achieve the most # of boxes shipped.

Our hypothetical Amazon employees would be incented to “ship more boxes no matter what!”

Sounds insane, right?

Without a strategy, you tend to focus on creating more artifacts of thought leadership.

Rather than focus on the practice of thought leadership.

📦 Are you focused on producing the artifacts of thought leadership? (Shipping more stuff — whatever it is!)

💡 Or are you focusing on the practice of thought leadership?

Ask yourself, “why am I creating this [asset]”? If you can’t answer that question, you may have fallen into the asset-production trap.

📦 You may be shipping empty boxes.

💡 And pretending you’re delivering thought leadership.