Anyone who thinks that thought leadership is purely an external function aimed at influencing clients and new business prospects, is seriously limiting their potential.
Used properly, it is a very powerful tool for motivating and inspiring employees. It can play a big role in your retention strategy and act as a great talent magnet. These days talent scans the sector for the innovators and lead thinkers in the industry – they want to work at these organisations because the perception is this is where the action happens and where the leaders in their industry congregate.
I often advocate that thought leadership is not and should not purely be seen as a marketing or PR tactic – rather it should be part of the culture of an organisation the same way that sales, training or innovation are part of the culture of some organisations.
The really deep-seated, effective thought leadership is often closely aligned with the values of an organisation and typically has the buy-in and ownership of senior management. As such it is part of the culture of the organisation and has the buy-in and ownership of management. This permeates the rest of the company.
The positive effects of thought leadership on the employees
The organisations that strategically take their employees on the thought leadership journey will find not only do they become its best campaign ambassadors but it also has a number of positive knock-on effects:
- It gives employees something to talk about over and above the products or services you sell, empowering them to have conversations externally they previously wouldn’t have
- It delivers a deep sense of pride about where they work, what they do and the difference the organisation makes to its client’s lives
- It instils a passion about the organisation
- It makes them feel part of a now, happening brand – an industry trendsetter
- The positivity it generates rubs off on their enjoyment of being at work and the way they talk about their company to friends, family and prospects
- Through a process of osmosis, thought leadership campaigns that run over a period of years e.g. Strategy&, results in the employees becoming well versed on the topic. Using the Booz & Co example, after years of exposure to research and lead thinking on innovation they are able to have discussions with clients on innovation that no other firm can
- It imbues a culture of thinking and innovation across the organisation
- It increases morale
Not only does the business benefit externally, but internally it entrenches thought leadership as a way of doing business. This fosters the emergence of other thought leaders thus creating a virtuous circle.