The business world is abuzz with the different meanings of the word leader. Traditional meanings of the word meant those at the top of the hierarchy who set the vision and direction for the rest of us.

As Agile ways of working spread across the working world and digital and knowledge work require decisions to be made quickly at the point of value creation, the idea that we can all be leaders has taken hold.

When we add the word ‘thought’ in front of leader, it takes on another meaning. The concept of a ‘thought leader’ has come under much criticism and support since the word was first coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman.

Kurtzman said

“A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate. They have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view and new insights.”

This sounds great. We need people with new ideas, unique points of view, and who can originate innovative solutions to the challenges we face.


So why has the phrase ‘Thought Leader’ come under so much criticism.

Many so-called ‘Thought Leader’ publications turn out to be thinly veiled marketing material selling sub-standard materials that are barely thought out and offer little in the way of practical real-life solutions. Many case studies are overblown and simplistic. The ego desire to be a thought leader and recognised as such is often greater than the desire to put in the work and genuinely innovate something new and useful.

A quick search on Google on Thought Leadership Criticism provides plenty of articles that provide examples of companies producing low-quality content in the guise of thought-leadership looking to build a reputation in their market but sadly doing the opposite.

True Thought Leadership is hard to do.

A similar critique of the word ‘Entrepreneur’ comes to mind, when this word too, has been used so laxly when describing say, the Product Owner role. Many POs are described as entrepreneurs when really, they are little more than order takers who are on a paid salary that involves no risk to themselves or their money. This is not what was intended for this role.

What is true Thought Leadership?

True entrepreneurism is where the entrepreneur puts a piece of themselves into the product and it is their reputation and risk on the line. It is their job to make it work. They certainly will rely on others, but the buck stops with them.

Entrepreneurism and Thought Leadership are entwined. It is hard to imagine someone who is amazing at one of these without a little of the other.

Thought Leadership is a choice. It is a set of skills and experience that must be mastered.

Just like being an entrepreneur, there are both external skills that must be learned and mastered, and internal skills that challenge our emotional states and require us to question what we believe about ourselves and the world around us.

We do not need more amazing orators with no experience or useful content. We do not need more leaders who don’t understand the day to day lives of customers and staff.

We do need a new generation of Thought Leaders who have not only have the oration and presentation skills but have the content and experience that they have invested in themselves. Their offering is a part of who they are and what they have done. We need Thought Leaders who really do want to make a difference and who can influence the world in which we live for the better.

Providing a pathway for you

I have been an Entrepreneur and Thought Leader in this manner for the last 20 years. I have honestly tried to make a difference and poured what I have learned both internally as a shift in consciousness and externally through techniques, models, and experience into changing the world of work.

I founded AWA to provide support, training and coaching to those who want to make a difference to the way we do business and show up to work.

The 100 Thought Leaders Program

To further this aim, I have designed a very special program to help grow the next generation of thought leaders and change-makers. This program is for those who want a fast track to becoming a valuable and innovative leader and who don’t want to have to face doing it alone.

If you are doing fantastic work already in your organisation and want to learn how to take the next step in your career and find the confidence, skills, and techniques to step out from the cover of 9 to 5 work and into the world of the Thought Leader, then this is for you.

You will learn how to stay on the cutting edge, how to innovate new ideas, and how to present these to the wider industry and world around you.

There is a limit of 100 people. When you subscribe to this program, you will receive incredibly rich content and exercises that enable you to build skills in innovation, free-thinking, and presentation.

You will build a global network and be recognised within that for the work you contribute. It is a platform that will allow you direct access to present to the community that I have built over the last 8 years and help you to build your own following.

It will require hard work, but ultimately be incredibly rewarding and life-changing.

The program works as a subscription where you can attend as many workshops as you like for a year’s subscription. There will be 48 workshops a year plus access to all previous recordings. The recordings are hosted in a rich learning environment with a wealth of additional materials and links. We will all belong to an active Slack team for support and networking.

You will create your own thought leadership materials, can have them peer-reviewed, and the best ones will get the chance to present at webinars and meetups throughout the AWA global network.

The first workshops start this November (2021) and you can subscribe now. The price is £2999 + VAT and includes everything you need. You can find out more and subscribe here.

Simon Powers is the CEO and founder of Adventures with Agile. He has over 20 years’ experience helping very large organisations to thrive in the market and to be better places to work. His approach led him to create our transformative ICAgile Certified Enterprise Agile Coaching training courses, which run worldwide and online. Simon is one of the first ICE-EC experts in the world.