The 3Qs of Thought Leadership

thought leadership modelAccording to the 2015 World Economic Forum, no less than 47% of all critical job roles could be affected by acquisition of deepening automation, social technologies, and artificial intelligence. Further, with the recent heavy worldwide focus on big data and talent analytics, value in organizations will likely continue to rely less on physical assets and more on intellectual horsepower — the know-how to build and sustain competitive advantage in a distributed and global world.

In short, this equates to our leaders’ ability to mobilize disruptive, yet healthy, thinking for sustained and lasting leadership differentiation.

Leadership quality explains as much as 80% of an organization’s performance, according to Brandon Hall Group research. And in another of our studies, the highest performing organizations prioritize a leadership strategy – inclusive of thought leadership capability – second behind only an organization’s business strategy.

This is compelling reason to get thought leadership right, yet only 4% say they have leaders prepared to develop others. In more than 75% of organizations we surveyed, less than 5% of critical roles have one ready and willing successor in place.

So why the gaps? The answer appears straightforward: Too few thought leaders ready to execute on business goals. That then begs the question, what makes a thought leader? Considering the empirical evidence of our annual talent, performance management, and leadership studies, I propose thought leadership in today’s brave new world can be defined by what I’ll call The 3Q Model of Thought Leadership:

pQ: Passion Quotient

This refers to leaders’ insatiable curiosity. Leaders ask why. Thought leaders ask why, and why again, and again. They are in a tireless state of data collection, learning, figuring out new ways of approaching old problems, adopting new skills, behaviors, and beliefs. They behave this way, not because they have to or are told to, but because they are passionate. Their interest simply never dies. This kind of eternal inquisitiveness contributes to breakthrough discoveries and gains.

“Passion is not necessarily something we have, it’s something we choose.”

Susan Scott, author Fierce Conversations

uQ: Unique Quotient

Plain and simply, thought leaders view things differently – they challenge the status quo. They follow rigorous process to garner empirical data, diversity of perspective, and predictive insights yet maintain a mental keenness to consider the evidence analytically and with a healthy dose of reasonable skepticism. Thought leaders take a stand that if everyone has the same idea, then new opportunity cannot be uncovered. In the spirit of not settling for incremental improvement but rather demanding breakthrough performance, thought leaders examine every problem through a unique lens in the spirit of unveiling unanticipated growth.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.


bQ: Bold Quotient

Thought leaders are fearless. They are not afraid to be competitive and they welcome healthy challenge and debate. Sporting a courageous spirit, thought leaders do not engage in “business as usual” work or discussion. They step up to reality, take a stand for action, and accept responsibility for the outcome. Bold leaders invite reality checks regardless of how uncomfortable they may be. And, if results are ugly or downright broken, they relish in fixing them without placing blame for the failure on others. Bold leaders are able to rise above gut reaction and stretch their personal resiliency because they make it a practice to exercise, take breaks, eat lunch, and “turn off “ to clear their minds and decompress from the overwhelming demands of each day.

“I’m responsible for this company. I stand behind the results.”

–Jeffrey Immelt, GE

Thought leaders are a special kind of leader who consistently produce innovative ways of thinking and doing. They are looked up to, and turned to, when others need the right answer to new questions, troubling results, and breakthrough performance. They are at the forefront of their organizations and their industries.

Who are the thought leaders in your organization? In what ways are they passionate, unique, and bold? How are they influencing peers to change the rules of the game? And, how are they making a difference in your business results?

Until next time….

Laci Loew, Vice President and Principal Analyst,
Talent Management, Brandon Hall Group

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