Gautama Buddha, SriSri Ravishankar, BabaRamdev, JKrishnamurti, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Osho Rajneesh, Sathya Sai Baba, Srila Prabhupada of ISCKON fame – What common thread binds all of these big names – yes they are all spiritual gurus revered and followed by millions all over the world. Apart from this they have another amazing quality – their power to influence the thoughts of their followers – these are spiritual gurus whose kingdom far outreaches the geographical influence of any king or government stretching as they do from one corner of the world to the other. Their followers hail from diverse backgrounds – the common man, artists, politicians, world leaders, homemakers, children, drug addicts, the conscientious working man – the spectrum is really all encompassing.
As early as the 1920’s saw J Krishnamurti urging people to “reject authority particularly one that instructs you on thought”. The promise of freedom from thought instructing authority had thousands eating out of his hand!
These pied pipers of spirituality recognized many years ago the power of establishing the value of a thought or an idea in the minds of their followers. Vedanta, meditation, yoga, kriya, karma and dharma were tied together with the firm thread of “Thought Leadership”. Spiritual Gurus come and go, much like the flavor of the day, they remain in the minds of people for a while – what lives on is their power to influence the thoughts of their followers.
So what is “Thought Leadership”? It is the ability to sell an idea to a group of people – one does not necessarily have to have power, position or authority to display thought leadership. And the changes may not be initiated at the organizational level. The changes can be small scale at the team or group level. Thought leaders can demonstrate using a prototype or use logic and evidence to persuade people.
To be a thought leader a person must be the king of content – the stronger the content the lesser the effort to sell the idea – content, evidence and demonstrated usage will speak for itself. The credibility of their idea is the key to its acceptability. Thought Leadership is radically different from traditional top down leadership.
Let’s compare this to a journey – Traditional leaders define the destination, lay down the road map and sell tickets to reach there as well. Thought leaders on the other hand merely sell the tickets for the journey and allow people to get there on their own or with the help of facilitators, coaches and managers. They just promote a better way to get to the destination.
Thought Leadership ends when the target group accepts the idea. This is where the thought leader becomes a manager and starts to manage the implementation of the idea either on his own or with the help of other managers.
Thought Leadership requires a youthful rebellion and tremendous courage, bravery and conviction to charter new paths. Once a part of an organization’s culture Thought Leadership can add to the sustainability in the long term perspective. Folks go out there and break the mould..yet again!