I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between “Thought Leaders” and actual leaders.
A Thought Leaders is someone who: believes they are gracing the world with their insights and perspectives. Thought Leaders have a lot of opinions, but not a lot of experience to back up their ideas.
I know I’m reading a book from a Thought Leader when they spend the first chapter of their book preaching at me instead of introducing themselves.
Thought Leaders expect audiences to perceive them as an expert by default. The ironic thing is this isn’t humans function by default! As a means of survival we are inherently skeptical. This saves us from eating poisonous berries, jumping off dangerous bridges or walking down dark alleys at night.
Actual leaders understand this. They will always come down to your level.
Thought Leaders don’t understand this. They will actually talk down at you from the platform they have built for themselves.
Thought Leaders speak in “matter of fact” statements. They expect audiences to jump on board with their ideas quickly.
Actual leaders speak from a place of real world experience. They don’t expect audiences to do exactly as they do.
Thought Leaders are really bad at storytelling. They will only share stories that help build the facade they are trying to put off.
Actual leaders are incredible storytellers. They will take you on the journey with them. Unafraid to admit their shortcomings, they know that their own moments of weakness can spark courage in the hearts of those that are listening.
Thought Leaders tell you what you should believe.
Actual leaders show you what they believe.
Thought Leaders will sit down with you for coffee and talk about themselves the entire time.
Actual leaders will sit down with you for coffee and ask you questions about yourself, the entire time.
Thought Leaders are quick to share what needs to change.
Actual leaders initiate change without making an announcement.
All in all, I am extremely drawn to actual leaders. These are the people I look up to the most in my life. These are the people whose words I hold onto and whose wisdom I can draw from during difficult periods and seasons in my life.
Sometimes it’s obvious who the actual leaders in your life are, because their books, conferences and podcasts sell-out and top the charts. But sometimes it’s not so easy to point them out. Sometimes you only learn from them via the people closest to them, because they aren’t quick to share the incredible things they’re up to. Aren’t these people the best! What an absolute treasure. Just look at Jesus, whose ministry was documented by his disciples, not by him. There’s no book in the Bible that was actually written by a pen inside Jesus’ hand. Instead he just did his thing, telling stories and serving others, and people quickly took notice. In my opinion, Jesus is the definition of an actual leader.
What do you see in actual leaders that you admire and aspire towards?
Share your thoughts in the comment section below!