The Problem with Thought Leadership

With shrinking tenure rates the impact that higher education has on the intellectual landscape of America is uncertain. What’s even more petrifying is it’s replacement. Ann Friedman’s “All LinkedIn with Nowhere to Go” is one of my favorite articles of the year, precisely because what it questions and addresses one of the problems of one of the largest social networking sites on the internet.

What the hell use is it?

“If the poor, as John Steinbeck once observed, see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires,” she writes, ” it seems fair to assume that on LinkedIn, followers see themselves as temporarily embarrassed thought leaders.”

Generally speaking LinkedIn sucks, despite their promises most jobs are still filled by personal connections, but what struck me was how dead on Ann Friedman was with her attack on the current state of thought leadership. The problem with thought leadership today is a mixture of inverse incentives and lack of heft.

She writes

A post by “Technology Futurist, Innovation Expert, Business Strategist, Bestselling Business Author, Keynote Speaker” Daniel Burrus instructs would-be Steve Jobses to “take the time to think both short-term and long-range. Build your future by competing on things other than price, and by asking the right questions, especially when it comes to consumers.” Never mind that Burrus hasn’t built an Apple-like company; such perorations are like the incantation of a devotional prayer: they call down the mercies of a remote techno-deity in order to ritually cleanse the grubbier aspirations of the business-strategizing, keynote-speaking class. And in the same circular fashion, the point of encouraging users to connect and follow and exchange points of view on LinkedIn is to marshal those users behind the simple, world-conquering faith in networked connectivity. The thoughts that lead the LinkedIn experience, in other words, are usually subtle advertisements for the LinkedIn experience. Or not-so-subtle come-ons: one post promises to help people answer the question “What should I do with my life?” in three steps—by using LinkedIn.

In short, we have an army of “thought leaders” who haven’t had an original thought.

Source: Ann Friedman – All Linked in With Nowhere to Go

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