Thought Leadership in a Dynamic World

A closer look at key traits that enable one to become a better thought leader

Thought leadership is all about envisioning the possibilities before they become obvious. Conventional leaders transition into ‘thought leaders’ when they transform themselves into great communicators of innovative ideas. They do this with clarity and consistency while being accomplished executors themselves, of such ideas. The ideas are usually shaped by the wisdom they gain from their focused thinking and outstanding work experience.  

As an architect and an entrepreneur, I have had the opportunity and good fortune of designing and overseeing the construction of around a hundred projects in the past. Each of these projects had its own share of challenges. The completion of each one was the result of great teamwork that many a time tested my own leadership skills. 

In this article, I have tried to summarise what I have learned from my own experience as an entrepreneur and watching other extraordinary leaders in action.  

The following are a few important traits that I believe, make one an outstanding thought leader.  

 Being thinkers

[box type=”success” align=”” class=”” width=””]The ability to think deeply and ideate, apart from the efficacy to execute well-conceived ideas, is perhaps the most important trait that a thought leader should possess.  [/box]

Plato once described thinking as the ‘talking of the soul with itself‘. Thinking is the key process that helps thought leaders evolve new ideas. The ideas thus evolved are often transformed into plans of action first and action later. 


Thought leaders are visionaries. They know where they want to go and how to take their cadres with them in their journey. They use their vision to set unambiguous goals and articulate them to their own team, organisation or an external audience with great clarity.  

The leaders are well aware that their vision and goals may not always bear fruits. If and when failures occur, they own them up, learn from them and move on. ‘I can accept failure. But I can’t accept not trying’, said Michael Jordan once, offering his take on trying and not succeeding. 

Creating own space 

By communicating their vision and thoughts effectively, the thought leaders create their own space within a domain. They then usually go on to establish themselves as spokespersons for their domains or the industry they hail from. [box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]A classic example is the evolution of Steve Jobs from being a computer whiz kid to being a world leader in information technology. [/box]

 Passion and conviction 

‘One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested’, wrote E.M. Forster once. 

The thought leaders’ passion for their subject, coupled with their conviction, form the prime source of their energy and mainstay of their journey forward.  

Leading from the front 

True leaders lead from the front. They never shy away from assuming such a mantle and facing the challenges that come with it. They give their one hundred percent to everything they do, irrespective of the size and nature of the task. The outcome usually is inconsequential since they see the journey as exciting as the destination itself. For many of them, ‘Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all’, as Helen Keller once put it. 

Perpetual learning 

‘To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often’, said Winston Churchill. 

I am of the opinion that being ‘a student for life’ helps one in becoming a better leader. Thought leaders set themselves on a path of continuous learning. They use observation and analysis to constantly refine and redefine their ideas, even at the risk of contradicting themselves at times. However, they adopt this method without much reservation to keep themselves in sync with the ever-changing world. 

The big picture 

Irrespective of the type of mission that one is on, it is important to look at the big picture. I have often felt that if a cause is for the greater good of humanity, nature plays its part in helping it succeed. It is probably this realisation that prompted author Paulo Coelho to say, ‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it’. 

Empathy and the world 

To conclude, I feel thought leadership works best if the leaders’ strong visions are founded on noble intentions and are matched by their equally strong, virtuous actions. It works well, partly because, out of all thoughts and actions, the ones based on nobility and empathy, are the ones that are aligned fully with the best interest of our planet!  As Dr Jane Goodall once put it, ‘What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.’ 

Given the situation that the world is in today, we are in dire need of more moral thought leaders and their value-based leadership. Because, in the final analysis, true leadership is all about making the world a better place to live in! 

This article is authored by Anil Bhaskaran, an award-winning Architect and Urban Planner and the Managing Director of IDEA Centre, Bangalore.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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