Thought Leader or Thought Inspirer?

I have to admit, I’ve never loved the phrase “thought leader.” Who really wants to have someone else lead their thoughts? We use the phrase so frequently that perhaps we’ve not stopped to think how we may inadvertently be giving up our right and responsibility to be the sole leader of our thoughts.

There is no doubt that people and experiences influence our thoughts (sometimes for the better, and sometimes not).  I wonder if we would be more intentional consumers of thoughts and ideas if we labeled these people with a slightly different moniker – perhaps “thought nudger,” “thought provoker,” “thought tickler,” or my personal favorite, “thought inspirer.”

Sometimes we encounter “thought inspirers” in brief moments such as an article, talk or a post. In these instances, we hear or read something that sparks an idea or evokes an emotion that inspires us to think a bit differently or pursue a course of action we might not have otherwise taken. Sometimes we carry “thought inspirers” with us for longer periods of time; through the length of a book, a course, or through a coaching experience. And sometimes we carry a “thought inspirer” through the length of our careers or even our entire lives. We stay connected to these people because their work resonates. We are intrigued with how their thoughts and work evolve. They remind us to stay curious and engaged in the development of our own thoughts and ideas.

Recently, I had the pleasure to reconnect with a “thought inspirer” from my early career days through MRG’s membership in ISA, a professional association for organizations in the learning and development space. I traveled to the Harvard Business School to interview Rosabeth Moss Kanter who is the insightful, provocative, “thought inspirer” of books such as Move, Confidence, World Class, Men and Women of the Corporation and her newest book, Think Outside the Building. Dr. Kanter reminded me of the power that exists in the commitment to being a lifelong learner, a questioner of the status quo, and to being a person committed to doing one’s part to make the world a better place. I am grateful to another “thought inspirer,” the inimitable Bev Kaye and to my delightful colleagues at ISA, for making this opportunity to reconnect possible. If you are interested in listening to the Dr. Kanter’s current thoughts and ideas, you can access the interview here.

I came away from my time with Dr. Kanter with a commitment to be more intentional about where I seek thought inspiration, and a willingness to take a few more risks when I am in situations where I may be a “thought inspirer” for others.

Where are your thoughts being inspired these days?


About the author

As president of MRG, Tricia uses her penchant for bursting into song and bringing out the best in people in approximately equal measure.

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