12 Ways to Get Cracking as a Thought Leader


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An idiosyncratic thought leadership manifesto created by David Zinger based on his work in employee engagement. You will learn 12 ways to build and sustain your own thought leadership.

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12 Ways to Get Cracking as a Thought Leader

  1. 1. A Manifesto for Thought Leaders 12 Secrets to Becoming a Thought Leader Cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am. by David Zinger www.davidzinger.com
  2. 2. The map is not the territory. Alfred Korzybski
  3. 3. I have been referred to as a thought leader in employee engagement and was conferred engagement Guru status by the UK’s Engage for Success movement. I never knew that a business and workplace movement in the UK could confer guru status. I believe that if you think you are a thought leader or a guru in all likelihood you are neither of these things. I don’t think I am a thought leader, just a fifty-nine year old guy living on the Canadian prairies in Winnipeg who developed an abiding passion for the various permutations and combinations of engagement in work, living, leadership, and management.
  4. 4. A Dozen Ways to Get Cracking as a Thought Leader
  5. 5. 1. Develop a mild to medium obsession with a topic. I admit that I am obsessed with engagement and what it means. I can’t resist reading a book or blog about engagement. I check tweets on engagement about five times a day. I think about engagement all the time. Psychologists suggest we have about two thousand 14-second daydreams each day. A fair number of my daydreams involve engagement.
  6. 6. 2. Be willing to go anywhere to learn about your specialty. I have gone from military bases in Winnipeg to distilleries in Manitoba to learn about engagement. I have walked the tunnels of uranium mines in Northern Saskatchewan and spent time scurrying though a platinum smelter in South Africa in search of engagement. I got a real buzz of engagement by using computers over three summers to interact with honeybees in their hives to learn about social engagement. If you want to buzz off for a few moments to learn how even one honeybee can be a teacher, click on: Waggle: 39 Ways to Improve Human Organizations, Work, and Engagement. Thought leaders need to go anywhere and to learn from everyone (even another species) about engagement.
  7. 7. 3. Your best thoughts always begin with ignorance. Everything I have learned about engagement has come from my ignorance. To me, ignorance simply means not knowing. Stupidity is thinking you know when you don’t. It is okay to be ignorant just don’t be stupid about it. Just because we start with ignorance doesn’t mean that we stay there.
  8. 8. 4. You are only half right but don’t let your brains fall out. I believe that half of what I say is right on, evidence-based, and state of the art while half of what I say is wrong. The conundrum is that I don’t know the difference. Concepts, ideas, and practices need to be played out and what works for one person, team, or organization may not work for another. Jacob Needleman, the philosopher offered the following advice, “it’s good to keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.”
  9. 9. 5. It is more important to write than be right. E. M. Forester once wrote, “how do I know what I think until I see what I write.” Writing has proven to be a good way to think. I have written over 2500 blog posts, 3 books, and 10000 tweets. I read to learn but I also write to learn. Thought leaders won’t go wrong by writing.
  10. 10. 6. You can think on your own but you are never alone. Thought leadership does not exist in isolation or a vacuum. I founded and host the 6100 member EEN. I have devoted countless hours over the past 6 years to this community and it has been worth every second. We are now firmly embedded in the era of social thinking supplanting solo thinking.
  11. 11. I am enthralled by learning and learn from everyone I encounter. I default on being a student. I study rather than read. Currently, I am studying, Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. I can’t help myself as I make notes and draw little diagrams in the margin, I argue with certain statements and put giant check marks beside other statements. The white pages of the book are streaked with contrails of yellow highlighter. 7. You can never know enough, or retain enough, to stop being a student.
  12. 12. 8. Build a pyramid so that your thoughts will outlast you. I never intended to build a pyramid but I ended up building a 10 block pyramid of engagement. I am a visual thinker and created images for the key elements of engagement. Before I knew it the blocks took the shape of a pyramid. Partially as a tribute to the great UCLA’s basketball coach John Wooden’s pyramid of success and partially because the pyramid structure created a strong, almost intuitive, visual representation of the tactical and practical requirements of full engagement. It may be premature to declare this but I believe the pyramid of engagement may be my magnum opus, or it could be the manifestation of regression to when I was three years old and totally engaged in playing with wooden alphabet blocks.
  13. 13. 9. Embrace contradictions and change your mind. My mind has been changed often in engagement. I have more questions than answers. My thoughts lead me more than I lead my thoughts.
  14. 14. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. Walt Whitman
  15. 15. 10. To find enlightenment be a lamp. A much wiser one than I, the Buddha, said “be a lamp unto yourself.” We must shine a light on our own thinking and approach to knowledge. We can go around the globe in search of enlightened learning and fail to realize that it resides in our own hands, head, and heart.
  16. 16. 11. Waggle while you work. My honeybees taught me to waggle. Waggles are their dance- like movements to communicate with their community about sources of pollen and other essential resources. I trust my thought-waggles will help others find and nourish their own engagement. I place countless links to resources in my frequent updates on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  17. 17. 12. Think, pray, laugh. I keep everything in perspective with the Chinese beatitude: Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, they shall never cease to be entertained. I maintain my serenity by reciting the modified serenity prayer I learned 30 years ago: God grant me the laughter to see the past with perspective, face the future with hope, and celebrate today without taking myself too seriously. Thought leaders who laugh, last. Enjoy my free book: Assorted Zingers: Poems and Cartoons to Take a Bite Out of Work.
  18. 18. Alfred Adler was a thought leader for psychological thinking. He didn’t follow Sigmund Freud’s path or someone else’s path, he created his own. Supposedly after presenting his latest theories and thinking on psychology in front of very large audiences he would conclude his presentation with this statement of heartfelt uncertainty, “things could also be quite otherwise.” As we journey forward in our knowledge, let’s never forget that, things could also be quite otherwise.
  19. 19. The Manifesto thinned down: 1. Develop a mild to medium obsession with a topic. 2. Be willing to go anywhere to learn about your specialty. 3. Your best thoughts always begin with ignorance. 4. You are only half right but don’t let your brains fall out. 5. It is more important to write than be right. 6. You can think on our own but you are never alone. 7. You can never know enough, or retain enough, to stop being a student. 8. Build a pyramid so that your thoughts will outlast you. 9. Embrace contradictions and change your mind. 10. To find enlightenment be a lamp. 11. Waggle while you work. 12. Think, pray, laugh. Things could also be quite otherwise…
  20. 20. David Zinger speaks writes and consults on employee engagement and engaged work, organizations, management, and leadership. Contact him today if you would like him to share his thoughts. Visit his site: www.davidzinger.com. Visit EEN: www.employeeengagement.ning.com Email him: david@davidzinger.com.