Thought Leader
Condemned to the 3rd Circle of Hell


[...] a buzzword or article of jargon used to describe a person who is recognized among his or her peers for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote those ideas. The term can also be applied to companies, usually small businesses.

According to commentators such as Elise Bauer, a distinguishing characteristic of a thought leader is “the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers, and the broader marketplace in which it operates.

(from Wikipedia; thanks to Jon Snook)

  1. 1
    Varun Says:

    I somehow like the phrase (it is not _a_ word, is it?) ‘Thought Leader’. It is simple and immediately conveys its meaning.

  2. 2
    Chris Says:

    It might count as a buzzword but the meter and flow of the two words isn’t good enough to keep it around plus it ranks around an 8 on the pretentiousness scale.

  3. 3
    Matthew Anderson Says:

    This phrase reeks of ego and the word ‘Leader’ implies that there are only a few of them.

  4. 4
    Bill Brown Says:

    It literally doesn’t make any sense. Leader of thoughts? It sounds like someone who’s running a brainstorming session. Please, please, please do “best practices.” That really gets my goat every time I hear it.

  5. 5
    James AkaXakA Says:

    Thought leader: person with brain.

  6. 6
    Brian Says:

    Sounds like a B-movie supervillain. *SHREEEK* its the Though Leader…run! I condemn thee to hell!

  7. 7
    Ian Gordon Says:

    Uh, yeah, I would write a good comment about why this is a stupid buzzword but, if I did, your brains would explode.

  8. 8
    karmatosed Says:

    This smacks of middle management labelling – I see a captain pencil pot controller on the horizon with a chief officer tea maker.

  9. 9
    Anonymous Says:

    “Thought Leader” makes me think of George Orwell’s 1984. Thoughtcrime, thoughtcriminal, etc.

  10. 10
    Phrakk Says:

    Martin Luther King Jr. influenced our thought. Calling him a “thought leader” would be laughable.

  11. 11
    Christian Montoya Says:

    Isn’t Professor X a thought leader? Maybe he was the first one! Pre-internet baby, PRE-INTERNET!

  12. 12
    Shane Says:

    As Anonymous mentioned. Very much 1984 and while this was a great book, its not something we really want. Just like this word/phrase. We don’t want it.

  13. 13
    Dryte Says:

    whoever is paid the most and can give raises or has most popularity. has nothing to do with a persons inteligent thoughts. or their skills at leading. has to do with peoples reasons for following.

  14. 14
    neddiedwarf Says:

    This was obviously developed by somebody who wanted to establish a recursive method of elevating themselves above others, by becomeing a “thought leader” through proposing the concept.

  15. 15
    Charles in Cleveland Says:

    Sounds like someone in a high school clique, to wit, the chorus says, “The Great Oz has spoken.”

  16. 16
    Matt Says:

    Almost (but not as annoying) as “best of breed”. What are you, a f__kin’ dog breeder?

  17. 17
    hashbat Says:

    Marvelous. Thanks, will spread this among my friends!

  18. 18
    harwin Says:

    Marvelous. Thanks, will spread this among my friends!

  19. 19
    Adele Says:

    Pretentious. Laughable. I find it appropriate that “Altogether Duh” is an anagram for Thought Leader, which is perfectly appropriate for this type of corporate babble-speak.

  20. 20
    Dron13458 Says:

    Total 1984 ;
    Thought Leader = Leader of your Thoughts;
    I think it is self explaining like Thought Standart , Thought Disciplin , Thought Crime;
    However it sounds corni like the hulks enemy “the Leader” ;
    This is a world thet makes me smile :) ;

    End of Thought imput Leader;

    /* this is sarcasm */

  21. 21
    Ryan L. Says:

    What’s wrong with the word “innovator”? Did marketing droids suck the life out of it so someone had to come up with a new phrase that means the same thing but takes more time to say and type? Besides, “thought leader” doesn’t convey a sense of action, which is pretty much half of the definition. It’s a worthless phrase. I felt an immediate hatred for it from the moment I saw it.

  22. 22
    What Is Thought Leadership, Anyways? | Social Media Contractors Blog Says:

    […] Thought leadership is a very real thing–but it's also become so frequently-used (and misused) that it may very well be one of those buzzwords that people want to die.  […]

  23. 23
    Neologism Says:

    I fully agree with Adele & Chris, and other commenters above – this buzzword is pretentious, mindless, ego-driven nonsense. The irony is that those who use it are more likely to be followers than leaders.

  24. 24
    Melchior Says:

    Like much business jargon, this one is idiotic.

  25. 25
    RockMomster Says:

    “Leader”, “influencer”, “innovator” all day the same thing. Have people such limited vocabularies? Thought leader sounds so clumsy and redundant.

  26. 26
    Lambchop Says:

    Has a single likeable person ever described themselves as a “thought leader”? Doubtful.

  27. 27
    Lloyd Braun Says:

    Most people who want to become thought leaders overlook two important aspects of thought leadership: thoughts (as in unique and useful new ideas) and leadership (as in earning the respect and admiration of others so that you may share your ideas with them). Most people who have these two characteristics don’t set out to become thought leaders. They just are. And they rarely refer to themselves as thought leaders. Those who want to become thought leaders shouldn’t waste their time in ego-driven self-promotion. Rather, they should focus on coming up with ideas that will truly make a difference in the work and lives of other people and on earning a reputation for honesty, intelligence, creativity, generosity and other traits we associate with leaders.