TL 2Today, many organizations look at thought leadership as a way to differentiate its content. While seemingly a reasonable objective, in reality thought leadership is not a content strategy. It is a cultural imperative inside organizations committed to innovation and disruption. Breakthrough product lines, radically different processes, introduction of new industry categories, the reinvention of staid industries, the creation of standards that stimulate collaboration and new platforms for growth, etc. are all part of the DNA of thought leadership. True thought leadership is not possible without a culture that lets big thinkers thrive by supporting calculated risks, encouraging new ways to do things, pushing others to go beyond the obvious, thinking about new approaches and consistently measuring impact in order to enhance and refine. True thought leaders back up their ideas with research and additional voices. Then, they inspire others to add to the thought stream.

The output of thought leadership eventually becomes part of an overarching strategy that includes change management, the stimulation of broader conversation and collaboration, both internally and externally. One of the methods for engaging others is content that reflects the thought leadership instead of creating thought leadership to fulfill a content plan.

The following Thought Leadership Maturity Model helps organizations determine where they fall on the maturity progression and identify the steps they need to get to the next level, if desired. Some organizations thrive as a prolific publisher. Others have committed subject matter experts who can contribute a differentiating POV to the marketplace. These companies choose to be the best at these points on the progression without going further.


Kathy Baughman
Kathy Baughman

Kathy’s forte is enterprise content strategy, content marketing and thought leadership. Over the past 40 years, she has worked with both emerging brands and large enterprises in developing content and thought leadership strategies. She has written several research reports, white papers and has been a key contributor to Forbes Publish or Perish Report.