For over a decade, individuals at various stages around the world, have been encouraged to stand on stages at Thought Leadership events and make bold pronouncements about their vision for and version of the future. In language that previously might have sounded hyperbolic, Thought Leadership seems to have taken on the mantle of future shaping, horizon testifying and world changing.
This was probably always a distortion, an abstract made real through conjecture and belief but was viable as an approach when the future behaved in even vaguely with a sense of linearity or predictability. It’s less valid however when the events of 2016 have shifted the tectonics around future to a default position of transitions and uncertainties. The abstract of the ‘future’ is now being replaced by interwoven narratives of transitional, fragmented and emerging ideas that is forcing anyone who holds the keys to the strategic direction of their organisation or venture to think very differently.
Indeed when the future is deeply uncertain and can’t be ‘owned’ it questions the very nature and notion of strategy and vision itself. Strategy and vision, fundamentally assume that they at the very least know the core direction into which they are facing and heading, when this directionality is itself in question then they are less and less effective and useful as future navigational instruments.
This is where Thought Leadership can step up and start work a lot harder but only if it is stopped being used as another facet of marketing and pr and morphs into something much more asset creating, IP producing and brand driven. In short it’s not the future that needs to be owned differently but Thought Leadership itself and needs to be re-framed to to ask companies, brands, ventures one simple question: ‘What is the permission that you’ve earned the right, through the risk, investments and ongoing curiosity of your journey to date, to lead a core group of loyal advocates into somewhere compelling and new where you are both part of an unfolding future story?’
Your primary role through this version of Thought Leadership is not to own the future but to earn the right to create a path into it that propels and takes others with you. You could sum this up as ‘leadership through momentum’ rather than strategy and vision. So a pause for thought, what do you do when you realise that you don’t own the future…deeply engage and embrace this uncertainty and realise this isn’t chaos or weakness but a chance to regenerate a new form of Thought Leadership that is based around exploring and navigating, for you and your advocates, a compelling path into a transitional, uncertain and interwoven future narratives.
Dan Simmons is the founder of Propelia. Launched in 2012, Propelia is a specialist and dedicated agency that helps develop a new style of Thought Leadership for expert individuals, highly entrepreneurial ventures and brave ‘Pathfinder’ brands – www.propelia.com
Founder at Propelia