3 Thought Leadership Examples to Avoid Being a “Bro”

When it comes to thought leadership, there’s a fine line between inspiration and hindrance. While some people – and brands – are great when it comes to creating exemplary thought leadership content, others… miss the mark.

That’s why we’ve rounded up our favorite thought leadership examples to help you gain a better understanding of how this world works – and how you can shine without recurring to sneaky sales tactics and mind games.

The truth about thought leadership

A lot of people tend to believe that thought leadership is just about showing up, throwing a few phrases and opinions out there, and logging out.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Becoming a thought leader takes time – it also takes patience, dedication, lots of studying, charisma, and intention.

Thought leaders are more than just “influencers”: they use their platform as a way to educate, guide, and inspire their community.

They kick off discussions, they ask questions, they answer doubts… they’re a leader in every sense of the word.

READ: Why Thought Leadership is Important and How to Establish It

If we’re looking for specifics, it takes years to acquire the vision, knowledge, and community support needed to become a thought leader. From finding a mentor to networking with other thought leaders, to reaching out to platforms as a way to get their name out there, thought leaders are in it for the long haul.

And this is especially true for business owners who want to cement themselves as thought leaders and find new ways to market their brand:
01. First, they need to establish a brand and build an active community around it. 
02. Then, they need to niche down and choose one specific area to which they can devote their attention. 
03. Once they’ve settled on their area, they need to become experts in it. This means lots of studying, listening, and learning about both sides of the story.

04. Lastly, when they’ve acquired the knowledge, it’s time to share it with the world by creating content.

The buzz around thought leadership…

Let’s face it: pretty much everyone nowadays wants to become a thought leader of some sort.

Hell, some people even consider themselves thought leaders… even when they lack the evidence to back these claims up.

Because of its growing popularity, people have started to associate thought leadership with other very-online-roles like influencers – but this couldn’t be further from the case!

Although thought leaders can influence, that’s not their main objective. They don’t need to influence people into buying a certain product, attending a certain event, or doing a certain thing. Thought leaders are more concerned with starting conversations, educating their audience, and being a beacon of support.

Meanwhile, influencers rely on a different set of metrics to do their job.

And the rise of the “thought leader bro”

This is how the “bro” side of leadership has started to gain momentum: by completely missing the point of what it means to be a thought leader.

READ: LinkedIn vs. Instagram: Which Platform is Better for Thought Leadership and Why?

More and more people have started to believe that all it takes for thought leadership is a platform and something provocative to say. And that’s exactly what they do: wreak havoc online with incendiary and controversial opinons – all for the sake of a few dozen clicks and likes.

And what does this lead to?

Uncensored podcasts with misogynistic and white supremacist views that glorify racist, classist, and US-centric views.

Yeah, we said it.

This belief that thought leadership is a free-for-all is what leads to celebrating and amplifying the Joe Rogans of the world. The Logan Pauls of the internet. The Alex Jones, the Gary Vaynerchuks…. 

Even women like Rachel Hollis, Jenna Kutcher, and their crew of white-cis-women fit into this roster!

You know the type, right? 

Standing atop their privilege, these self-appointed thought leaders wrongly believe that all it takes to be, well, a real thought leader is to shout words into a microphone – or publish them in a book, or share them on a video, etc –  and have people retweet and reshare your inflaming points of view.

So, how can we move past this vapid idea of thought leadership, and avoid falling into the same traps of becoming the “loudest” thought leader in the room means you’re the most important?

By looking at thought leadership through a culturally competent, liberatory, and human-centered lens.

Let’s find out what we mean by that…

3 thought leadership examples to avoid becoming a “bro”

At its core, thought leadership is about embracing diversity, confronting challenges, educating an audience, and generating positive change.

It has less to do with clicks, fame, and money, and more to do with sharing valuable opinions and perspectives that the world can benefit and learn from.

However, traditional marketing and “guru” techniques usually ditch these principles for the sole purpose of virality and quick growth.

But that’s not what we’re about.

We’ve rounded up 3 thought leadership examples and tips to help you move forward in a more intentional and impactful direction – and still get the recognition and community support that you desire.

01. Forget trying to be incendiary and strive to be inspirational

Like we said before, a lot of thought leadership bros go straight for the kill with incendiary and provocative points of view that serve no real purpose other than to piss people off or have them fight one another in the comments section.

But thought leadership shouldn’t be about “divide and conquer”: it’s more about community strength and care.

When working towards becoming a thought leader, don’t try to just set everything on fire and walk away. Even if your ideas and thoughts do go “against the grain”, be prepared to back them up with research, credible sources, and even your own lived experiences.

READ: How to Use Intercultural Marketing and Communication

You’ll have the opportunity to create a much stronger and brave community if you build it through hope, knowledge, and understanding… not through hate and troll-worthy pieces of content.

02. Don’t rely on hate to build a platform

Next on our list of thought leadership examples is the importance of creating a sustainable, brave platform where everyone can feel welcome, regardless of their gender, nationality, religion, etc.

Some “thought leaders” have built their platforms by exploiting their own vulnerabilities and stories to appear relatable and trustworthy – while their actions and values may not fully be aligned. This could look like appearing to be a “down-to-Earth” leader who’s your best friend, only to spout harmful and classist phrases without regard to their community. 

(Just ask Rachel Hollis…)

When it comes to establishing and growing your audience, find people who share your beliefs – and are willing to do the work in order to spread them – instead of blindly attacking someone else’s for the sake of follows and likes.

Build your platform atop ideals like integrity, reason, knowledge, ethics, strength – and many more – and you’ll soon start to realize that it doesn’t take negativity to grow or amplify your voice. Or a little note, decide what your core values are and define them – what does integrity look like for you, reason, knowledge, ethics, and strength?

03. Remember to always walk the talk

Our last thought leadership example has more to do with how you act than what you say.

When it comes to thought leadership, the role isn’t something that you can simply turn off when you put your phone down. Thought leadership is about continuous action and living out your journey as honestly as possible.

Thought leadership isn’t a character you put on – unless that’s how you’re looking to play into it for the long run.

Thought leadership, similar to personal branding, is a journey into self-awareness, self-love, and self-compassion – and honestly, anyone who tells you otherwise is only scratching the surface! It’s not *enough* to type up beautiful words and social posts – living out these ideas, and values, and walking the talk are equally as important. 

And we’re going to be honest – sometimes being a thought leader or a personal brand can be extremely lonely. It can be tiresome to engage in difficult conversations to present different perspectives, be the person educating folx, leading movements or new concepts, but walking the talk is, of course, how you build trust and present an aligned brand (not just someone who shows up for the cameras and disappears when things get difficult).

Dedicating yourself to your journey in thought leadership – without necessarily focusing on the titles and the fame – and pushing through thanks to passion and drive makes the process much more worthwhile and gratifying. 

Plus, it’s also a lot less stressful than trying a million different things and hoping one will stick for long enough to propel you to where you want to be…

TL;DR: don’t be a thought leadership bro

Thought leadership isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it when you feel called to it. 

And although the term has been co-opted by people who seem to be missing the point, there’s still good news… not everything has to be this way.

There are ways to turn the system on its head and reclaim thought leadership to its original state: one that involves celebration, community, guidance, and support.

Our favorite thought leadership examples to avoid becoming one of the “bros” are:
01. Forget trying to be incendiary and strive to be inspirational
02. Don’t rely on hate to build a platform
03. Remember to always walk the talk

Even if it takes longer (it should), even if the process is slower (it is), and even if you’re not getting the attention you initially hoped for right off the bat, avoiding the “thought leadership bro” cliché is a more rewarding experience than gaining popularity overnight (also, virality is not sustainable).

Your community and your conscience will thank you for that.

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