Thought Leadership is one of those terms you either embrace or you wish you’d never heard. A quick Google search shows people calling (or wishing) for its demise for the last five years. When it comes to the term thought leadership, we’ve been told to “avoid it” and “stop using it”; we’ve been told it needs to “retire”, “expire” and declaritively  “go away”.

But search trends beg to differ. Searches for the term thought leadership are trending up, not down.


If that’s the case, then thought leadership is something we should, perhaps, aspire to. J.D. Gershbein thinks so. JD is one of the foremost authorities on using LinkedIn for thought leadership. His name has become synonymous in social business circles with best-in-class LinkedIn profile writing and learning experiences geared toward developing thought leadership.   He has a background in psychology and neuroscience that helps him produce unique insights into personal branding and social networking.

Recently, I tapped JDs sizeable brain for some of those insights relating to thought leadership. During our interview,  we talked about what thought leadership is and the 3 sub components you must focus on to establish your thought leadership. We also talked about how to engage others to build a community, not just on LinkedIn, but anywhere you’re establishing thought leadership.  

JD,  like many, used to think a thought leader was someone who wrote a lot books or  was a expert the media who was brought in to discuss important issues. However, with the advent of social media and digital platforms, the idea of thought leadership has changed.

Thought Leadership Defined

jd-gershbein01A Thought leader is someone who guides, leads, influences, persuades through opinion and thought. A thought leader creates value through content, through appearance and through work.

We are entering a time of idea commerce where people are fighting to be seen, fighting to be heard and fighting to be noticed. They are looking for a paradigm that will help them create differentiation. Thought leadership is a way to gain that differentiation. It can be used for lead generation, to gain clients or to advance our professional lives.

Thought leadership is a way to gain competitive advantage. People want to be known for what they do, they want to be bundled in with their product or service. Organizations want their culture out in front for the world to see. They want their people championing the idea of the organizational culture. For them thought leadership is an extension of leadership.

Thought Leadership: History and Sub-Movements

Thought leadership sprang up as an outgrowth of social media. It’s because of Social Media and the internet that the concept of thought leadership is gaining legitimacy and becoming more popular.  Out of the rise of thought leadership. Three sub-movements have arisen.

  1. Brand Storytelling

  2. Content Marketing

  3. Community Management


Click Here To Read JD’s Full article on The Thought Leadership Movement

Today we are seeing people telling a brand story, selling a brand story and living that out in front of their audience.

Thought Leadership and Community Management

jd-gershebin3We must start thinking about the online communities we’re building as resources and assets to us. We can’t advance any goal unless our networks, our people, understand what we do.

The problem people have is they are ambiguous in shaping and guiding of the perception of themselves. We must start managing our communities from the moment we bring them in. We should focus on bringing in high caliber people who are a good fit for our community. From there we should start creating what JD calls “Local Influence”.  

As we bring people into our community we must carefully and consistently start making the case for our ideas, our products and our services so that people are exposed to our message and see the value we have to offer. It’s not just creating content, but it’s being present to answer a question, make an introduction, to help people in our network. It’s really all about doing the right thing and helping people.

Thought Leaders don’t use generic responses. They customize and add value. Thought leaders build thought leaders.


80% of Success is Showing up.  ~ Woody Allen


Thought Leadership and LinkedIn

It’s not about strategies for  using a platform like LinkedIn, it’s about seeing the patterns of what people are doing on the platforms and responding and connecting the dots to lead the conversation. You have to be physically and cognitively present.

Focused, concerted work on LinkedIn isn’t about just doing what the system prompts you to do. It’s about – How can I extrapolate this into the real world? How can take this online interaction, bridge the gap and make something happen in the real world?

We don’t try to sell on LinkedIn.  We are trying to let LinkedIn sell us so when it’s time it’s time to talk about our product, our service, our value and our skills, people are preconditioned based on what they have seen us do on LinkedIn.


Thought Leadership and Storytelling

It’s hard to tell good compelling stories. Great storytelling comes from a place of authenticity and purpose. Business stories are telling the story of how you got to the dance, how you got to where you are.

Simon Sinek said,  “Start with why” JD says you have to help people find their because.  

You have to help people become their because  ~JD Gershbein

The goal  is to create experiences around ourselves. We do that by telling a story. With story we can create and design a personal brand culture in the same way large companies do. If people want to work with us, they are buying into who we are, what we stand for, our core values and competencies. That makes the experience of doing business with us much more valuable. It provides people with more ROI.  

Find out more about JD Gershbein

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