The business community has a thought leadership gap—and a big one. They’re trying to fill it with money, which is a start, but will only go so far.
But judging by business leaders’ own estimates, whoever manages to bridge the chasm will see plenty of money coming back their way.
The divide is stark: More than 9 in 10 top executives (92%) say that thought leadership is “critical to building authority in my industry,” according to a recent Harris Poll survey of company leaders (director level and above) from a mix of industries. Similar numbers say that they personally consume thought leadership (90%) and that it indicates industry leadership (93%). And yet few seem to be doing it well: Hardly more than a quarter (28%) said that their organization has a robust thought leadership strategy while only 20% characterized their company’s approach as highly effective. Ouch.
Getting it right is important for more than just executive vanity. The executives surveyed estimated that thought leadership drives an annual value of $2.7 million for their brands—a figure that rises to $3.6 million among Fortune 100 executives.
Thought leadership as a concept is relatively new, originating in the early 1990s—just about the time that the internet started democratizing media. As traditional gatekeepers disappeared and platforms proliferated, so did opportunities for leaders to demonstrate their expertise.