How post-COVID fear is proving that thought leaders may soon be in short supply.
If there’s one thing that has proven to be in desperately short supply these past few months, it’s leadership.
That’s not to say that those leaders we do have aren’t doing everything they can to forge a path forward that makes the best of this terrible situation.
But rather that there simply aren’t enough thought leaders getting their voice out there and helping to supplement the guidance given by governments and other such authorities.
This is a systemic problem that has reared its ugly head many times in past, however this time it’s different.
Because the means by which the thought leaders spread their knowledge has been placed under threat by COVID-19.
Once upon a time, we packed into a crowded auditorium or lecture space to hear bright minds and inspirational speakers share their experience as well as their thoughts. Now social distancing and other such laws have made this impossible.
Because of this, we’re staring down the barrel of a future where thought leadership is unable to reach those who need it most and this is a worrying prospect for us all.
Which is why it’s critical that thought leaders quickly find a way to restore their voice in societal discourse.
Some might say this isn’t a problem and point to the fact that the digital age is empowering thought leadership to leave behind its physical roots.
Humans as a species are stronger in groups, this is indeed the very basis on which the concept of a ‘community’ is built. Which is why the power of an in-person speech is something that can’t just be forgotten overnight.
Not to mention that to simply say thought leaders should abandon the power and impact of an in-person performance betrays the very meaning of what being a leader is.
Add to this further that at time of writing COVID-19 still rages around the globe. Meaning a digital revolution amongst thought leaders would take many away from much-needed work in other areas during this troubling time.
Consider also that many thought leaders may simply be unable to take their existing presentations and speeches into the digital domain.
Where seated events to a physical audience allowed thought leaders to deliver a clear message and impart their knowledge, the same event in a digital setting risk being lost in the mix.
This is because the community being reached by thought leadership is just as important as the knowledge being shared. In a time where clear and concise information is of the utmost importance to health and safety, the potential for thought leaders to have their work become little better than background noise can only be seen as a negative thing. Not to mention that this, in turn, may lead to a decrease in attention or trust of thought leaders should their work be shared or posted out of context or in the wrong streams of discourse.
But there may still be some hope in going digital for thought leaders around the world.
Where large-scale digital assemblies may not be the way forward for thought leaders, taking the very concept of leadership back to its roots and then digitising the process could be the answer.
Rather than grafting physical systems into a digital domain, the onus must be on scaling down to smaller digital communities first and seeing what works.
Jumping straight into a mass Wirecast forum that’s broadcast across the world will no doubt be a case of ‘too much, too fast’.
Instead, thought leaders should look to social platforms such as Youtube, Twitter Live and Facebook to share their insights. By engaging with platform specific congregations, thought leaders from any industry can reach the people who will benefit most from the knowledge they have to share. This begins the process of building smaller digital communities that will eventually grow into the numbers once offered by physical events over time.
By shifting the standard to a more interpersonal format, the power lost by the lack of an in-person appearance is regained by a stronger existing connection to those with whom the thought leader is interacting.
However, for this to be a success, the core concern of good thought leadership must never be forgotten.
To put a no finer point on it, a thought leader must always ‘lead’. During this crisis and no doubt long after it has ended, people around the world will continue to trust the guidance and expertise that many thought leaders have provided them throughout the epidemic.
Which is why, whether it's in smaller digital communities or large physical events, the duty of care that every thought leader has to the best interests of their audience is now more crucial than ever.
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