Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Thought Learnership

Yesterday, for no apparent reason*, I had a  sudden idea "I'm not a thought leader, I'm a thought learner". And without giving it any more thought, I tweeted it. Some people liked it. One or two retweeted it.

My initial reason for tweeting the idea was that I thought it made a pretty cool 'tweetbite', and I thought it might resonate for some of my network, followers and #PLN (Personal Learning Network). But since then I've been reflecting on the idea some more.

The label 'Thought Leader' does not sit well with me for some reason and I'm trying to work out why that's so.  What makes someone a 'TL'? How is it 'earned'? Who decides? Who applies it? Leading who's thoughts? On what? In what spaces and in what media? Do we need to have our thoughts led for us? Are we sheep? "Who made you God?", to coin a well-used phrase...

I think it's something to do with the singularity of the term, the implication that only one person has the knowledge and wisdom and that they dispense it to the rest of us (the masses) as a gift; that we worship at the feet of the guru, the all-seeing one...

As you might have guessed by now, I'm not one for the cult of the personality or for the elevation of one person over another, unless there's very good evidence of their worthiness for such status. And I have still less time for those who describe themselves as 'Thought Leaders'.

And yet, it's a term that is used lot in social media and in my professional arenas of HR, Learning & Development and Learning Technologies. And, indeed, there are many in those spheres to whom I look for inspiration, wisdom and guidance, many of whom make up the bulk of my aforementioned #PLN. I would, however, be astounded if many, or indeed, any of them, thought of or described  themselves as 'Thought Leaders'.

I accidentally came across a new (for me) tweetchat this afternoon, #Bufferchat, hosted by @Buffer.  One of my #PLN had tweeted a response to one of their questions and I felt the need to wade in, referring them to my original tweet of yesterday and then amplifying what I meant. In so doing, and during the rest of the tweetchat, where debate followed and others agreed with me, my thoughts clarified and have resulted in this #blog.

So, here's where my issues sit with the adoption - whether imposed by others or self-assumed - and use of the label, 'Thought Leader' - The arrogance. The assumption of status. The lack of humility. The self promotion. All the things which the tweeps in my #PLN DO NOT DO!

My #PLN shares, works out loud, challenges, gets into gnarly conversations and arguments, meets online and face-to-face in structured and unstructured, informal social and learning exchanges, with humility and compassion, and is authentic and human. They do not aspire to the status of, nor do they describe themselves, as 'Thought Leaders'. And yet, they influence, challenge and inspire not only my thoughts, but much more importantly, my behaviour and actions.

Now seriously, do your 'Thought Leaders' do that for you? Maybe it's time to drop the label and value our interactions with those who actually walk the talk.

* Perhaps I was subconsciously channelling Kandy Woodfield (@jess1ecat), who posted this tweet yesterday, unbeknownst to me...