What is the source of thought leadership? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not genius, even though in some cases, it can be genial. My experience is that the main source is curiosity and the backbone is intellectual integrity. This constant search to improve and deepen one’s understanding leads to the frequent experience that what is generally considered to be true does not always correspond to the reality.
While in the early years, the young child wants to touch, feel, explore and understand, the adolescent has often experienced a profound disconnect between reality and words. It explains often his opposition to conventions. She has already experienced that what she directly is in contact with is different from what one would like her to believe or admit. This conflagration is the source of conflicts that will make the young adult either a passive absorbent of conventional wisdom or a researcher of the facts and the reality.
However, curiosity, as indispensable as it is to develop that leadership, will not transform a curious individual into a thought leader. The second ingredient is the ability to structure thoughts in a coherent way with intellectual integrity. It does not come easily since it is a form of intelligence that can be developed but not taught. To a very large instance, it is innate.
I only became conscious of this ability over decades. It is when listeners or readers started reacting by saying that my point of view was unusual (some would say original) that I started building self confidence in my ability to cast a different and sometimes paradoxical approach to issues, policies and people.
It is the others who, gradually, told me they considered that I was a thought leader. It is not something one can self-define. That means that an important part of thought leadership is to be humble enough to realize that certainties are not always available.