Ruth Klein asked:
Thought leadership is driving change and perceptions about the role of business, and also the way we live. Thought leaders are those men and women who do not follow, but are leaders with innovation and vision. What they have in common is being able to transform abstract ideas into simple, common sense advice that promotes change.
Former Vice President Al Gore is a thought leader whose innovative thinking on man-made climate change, and what we can do about it, won him the Nobel Peace Prize.
Alex F. Osborne is the grandfather of the word “brainstorm,” who gave merit in the most conservative business circles to the idea of creative thinking. It was Osborne who said: “It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.”
These are the kinds of innovations and ideas that have or will have a profound impact on the way we live and do business.
The late Philip Crosby, a Martin-Marietta and IBM executive, wrote easy-to-read books for lay people and business leaders on the idea of “quality” in business, and the high cost of turning out poor-quality goods and services.
Sandra Odendahl is director of Environmental Risk Management for CIBC, Canada’s fifth-largest bank. With a degree in chemical engineering, she is a frequent guest speaker at universities to future business leaders about not just the political correctness, but also the profitability in going green.
The late Peter F. Peter Drucker coined the phase “knowledge workers” years before it came into common usage and he defined what would be both challenging and hold opportunity for each age bracket. He used his expertise to predict future social, economic and business trends.
Jon R. Katzenbach is considered a thought leader on the use of teamwork in a corporate setting, and how to make teams more effective.
Alvin Toffler, author of the internationally best-selling book, Future Shock, also was ahead of his time in writing about the digital revolution and information overload long before they became commonly used phrases.
Steve Jobs has always been a thought leader in action, continuing to re-define personal technologies from computers to iPods to iPhones after making the personal computer a household device in the late 1970s that now is almost as common as a toaster. He stepped out of the “Apple” box long enough to drive Pixar into success through new definition and new innovations in film animation.
Alice Korngold has been a leader in how to make nonprofits act more like businesses, and vice versa. Her innovations and vision were captured in her book, Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Business.
The innovators behind Google, Page and Brin, continue in their successful efforts to maximize search engine proficiencies and take advantage of advertising revenues.
Former President Jimmy Carter also won the Nobel Peace Prize. He won in 2002 for his innovative approach to finding peaceful solutions to international conflictsideas that will become more important in this increasingly global economy.
Peter Diamondis is a physician with a master’s degree in aerospace engineering who founded the X Prize Foundation, which has captured the world’s imagination by awarding prizes to those who know how to best leverage the entrepreneurial spirit and the public interest with cross-disciplinary innovation. Those who covet the X Prize are working in the private sector to develop outer space for both tourism and for business.
These men and women not only became leaders for their innovative ideas; they established themselves as thought leaders by translating their creative thinking into easily understood terms that can be capitalized on by the widest audiences in any country. Ultimately, that is the role of thought leadership: to craft easy to find and easy to accomplish ideas.