The Insight

June 12, 2020

The CEO-Thought Leadership Stratagem: What Are the Misconceptions Holding Them Back?

By iresearch
Social Share
Thought leadership strategy

One of the most challenging roles within any institution is that of the CEO.

They must oversee the various departments that make up the company, doling out instructions and working with the various teams to achieve a common goal. This puts a lot on the plate of the individual who is not only always learning about the different cogs that make up the wheel, but also driving them at the same time.

Thus, it is understandable that many CEOs do not want to take on thought leadership as part of their duties.

In the middle of all that’s going on with them, can they be blamed?

However, we have found out that many CEOs are truly being held back by common misconceptions that they have about thought leadership, not just the idea of having extra work on their hands.

In this piece, we take a hacksaw to these myths and expose them for what they are.

Myth #1 – Thought Leadership are Just Boasting Vehicles

When a company is doing well and are also blessed with a CEO who knows how to work the company’s message right via thought leadership, we can see how it can come off as an ego-chasing train.

The truth, though, is that a CEO who is comfortable enough to put themselves in the public eye has ego as the last thing on their mind.

Now that they are out there, they must constantly perform at the top of their game to keep the trust and image of the company intact. Likewise, becoming visible by being in the public eye now means that anything they do will be scrutinized closely than before.

Seeing all these, where is the time to chase any clout or ego boosters?

What the other CEOs who think this way do not know, also, is that they are losing their companies a lot of good business by staying in the shadows.

More than 55% of marketers, sales professionals, and key decision-makers within companies vet organizations they want to get in business with based on their thought leadership content. Best believe that these entities would not be drawn to an egomaniac, but the CEO that demonstrates the depth and flexibility that makes up a true thought leadership campaign.

Myth #2 – All CEOs Are Thought Leaders

This might look like it’s going against the myth above. Follow through with us, and you will see how that is.

Earning the title of ‘CEO’ does not come with ‘Thought Leader’ attached. Of course, you have soared through the ranks to hold what is arguably the highest position in the internal hierarchy of that brand. That does not, however, always give you the skills to establish thought leadership in that field.

Don’t get us wrong. Many CEOs are bred thought leaders from their time working up the ladder to where they are today. That is not always the case, though.

It takes a truly committed CEO to understand that they are not at the level of a thought leader yet so that they can make moves towards making that happen.

So, what makes a CEO a thought leader?

For one, they must be willing to go where others are not willing to explore.

The CEOs that become thought leaders have seen the business inside and out, trudged the murky waters of the industry and seen where the organizational shoe bites. They are the ones willing to go into the seemingly difficult/ controversial waves and come out with calm to the storm. That is what it takes to be a thought leader as a CEO.

Thus, the truth remains that not all CEOs are thought leaders. Cultivated right, though, all CEOs can be thought leaders.

Myth #3 – Personal Experience Is All You Need

When we discuss thought leadership, we place a huge emphasis on personal experiences. The catch is that these experiences are not all we place our emphasis on.

For you to have been able to build a successful business from scratch – or be deemed qualified enough to spearhead one – there is an audience waiting to hear from you. You have done what 20% of businesses could not do in their first year – and progressively continued to beat the statistics of others that have failed along the way.

However, the personal experiences you bring to the table are nothing if they are only vague.

For example, we are tired of hearing CEOs talk about how they saw a need in the market and decided to fill it. Given, up to 42% of businesses fail because they don’t have a market need to fill – but you need to be more specific than that.

Go deeper into what triggered you seeing the need in the first place. Dive deep into your fears and tribulations when you started. Let the market know of the trends that were against you, and how you overcame them. Reach deep for the times that you almost shut down the business: the whys of that, and how you kept your head above water.

They are personal experiences too, but they are better than vague representations of what you might have believed thought leadership to be.

Myth #4 – Pleasing the Audience is Key

Like we mentioned in the opening parts of this piece, CEOs are in a precarious situation. Sitting at the apex of the company, they are the ones who must blend with public opinion so that they can keep the lofty image of the company alive.

Well, we are sorry to break it to you, but that is not going to fly with thought leadership.

A common rule we like to go by is that you are not doing something right if the audience tends to agree with all your points on your thought leadership campaign. Often, we can estimate that you are playing it safe – choosing to work on established concepts rather than forge new ones.

A good example in this place would be the Tesla cars.

Before these came into existence, the Germans have been credited with leading innovations in the car market and introducing groundbreaking technology too. Along then came Elon Musk, the CEO of an electric car company from California who had a dream to change the way the world sees cars – by taking them fully electric.

It is no surprise that this got some laughs from the German automakers. A former chairman at Daimler (Edzard Reuter) even went as far as labeling Tesla 'a joke' and dubbing its CEO 'a pretender.' 

Today, Elon Musk is having the last laugh of that joke. To put butter on his bread, these German automakers have now started trying their hands at electric vehicles too, but they can’t get the same kind of hype and excitement around their models as Tesla has.

That is how thought leadership works. That is what it is all about.

You don’t have to play it safe and appeal to the market. Just go deep into research to dig out what the market will love to see, even if they don’t know it yet, and bring it to them.

Myth #5 – There Is No Time

As of Feb. 26, 2020, Amazon was sitting pretty as a $960+ billion market cap. The CEO of this company, Jeff Bezos, is worth way more than $100 billion too, but he still finds the time to write to his shareholders every year. To put that in another way, he does the writing of these letters by himself rather than delegating it out.

If the CEO of such a big company can find the time, best believe you can too.

We understand that the tasks on the desk of a CEO can sometimes be out of this world. When you put your mind to it, though, you will be surprised at how much you can get done.

You can choose to wake up about an hour early every day to just write down a few words. You can choose to jot down anecdotes and thoughts that come to your mind at different intervals of the day. No matter how it comes to you, always keep writing.

Before long, you will have an impressive body of text that informs your thought leadership campaigns for the future. Better still, these files can also make it easier to delegate the task to someone else while retaining your tone, style, and voice over the content.

Myth #6 – Thought Leadership Belongs to Marketing

Let’s, for a moment, agree that this is true – of which it is not. Even if thought leadership did belong to the marketing section, isn’t this still a part of the arms of the same organization you are controlling?

That said, thought leadership can aid marketing – but it is not marketing.

We like to use instances and examples a lot, so permit us to try another here.

Taking a car, for example, there is the frame of the car and engine part of it too. If the frame is marketing, thought leadership is the engine within it. Thus, even if it is the frame that attracts people to it, the engine is what does all the driving and heavy lifting at the end of the day.

Likewise, it is established that 45% of decision-makers shortlisted a producer of thought leadership content to bid on a project that they were outsourcing. Interestingly, these decision-makers were not considering such an organization before until they saw the kind of content they were putting out.

We don’t know about you, but that sounds like thought leadership is not something that should be left to marketing alone.

Final Words

It would be great to see more CEOs get into the thought leadership train – and do it right too.

Between these key decision-makers, there is an expanse of experience that the target market wants to mine from. Without dedication, consistency and of course, busting of these myths, though, that is not going to happen.

However, more CEOs are being sensitized to what they stand to gain from being thought leaders. The good news is that these CEOs will also be building a strong presence and personal brand for themselves in the process of establishing their companies as pioneers in the field.

With such a win-win situation in tow, there is no reason why any CEO should shy away from embracing this responsibility.

Do any of these trends jump out?
Get in touch with a thought leadership expert to find out more

Email Us

Leave a Reply

5 + 1 =

To stay updated subscribe to our
newsletter right away!

Book a Meeting

Simply fill out the details below and we will be in contact with you as we can.

10 + 19 =

Keep me informed about industry insight!

Subscribe today to join a growing family of global thought leaders.

iResearch Services