Thought leaders are not geniuses, brainiacs or wizards. They are people who have harnessed their leadership skills and have become the very best. Whilst thought leadership is sometimes seen as unnecessary business jargon, it is becoming increasingly important as industries change rapidly to adapt to new technology and industry environments. Leadership skills are passed down through generations, and it is our responsibility to inform and educate young people on thought leadership so they can thrive in any industry they pursue.
Thought Leadership Skills for Young People
Anyone can be a leader, but thought leaders are experts in their field. To be an effective and valuable figurehead, leadership skills need to be practised continuously. But what are some of these so-called skills?
- Listening skills
- Value orientation
- Long-term vision
- Fresh insight
- Critical Thinking
From as young as primary school age, young people can, and arguably should, be taught to adapt to new situations. In ten years’ time, as technology and trends continue to change, there will be jobs available that have not yet been invented. Young people must have the ability to handle these changes with competence and speed. They must also be able to think for themselves and provide fresh insights. However, a thought leader also needs to show respect for others, be trusted to make important decisions and be able to listen to others when appropriate.
Developing Skills in Young People
We know we need to support the development of up-and-coming thought leaders, but how do we go about it, and what are existing leaders, companies and businesses doing to facilitate this?
In the UK, there is a distinct lack of focus on practical leadership skills in education, instead, the focal point of most schools is on STEM subjects. Schools must do more in order to support the personal development of their students, not just simply their academic achievements.
There is some progress being made in this area. In 2015, the OECD created the Future of Education and Skills 2030 project, aiming to redesign curriculums to help prepare young people for the future world of work. Critical thinking programmes are also available in some schools, however, these are often available exclusively to students in higher sets, whilst others are left behind.
It is also essential that further education providers such as universities and colleges widen students’ options to develop leadership skills. This could come in the form of optional modules as part of any course, free online courses or opportunities to network with existing thought leaders in a variety of fields.
The Future of Thought Leadership
There are so many parts to being a thought leader. Since 1994 when the term was first coined, the concept has continued to evolve with changing times. In its early conception, thought leaders were acknowledged as people who had a lot of knowledge of a subject or industry. However, post-Google, where information is at everyone’s fingertips, the term has changed.
Thought leaders now not only know stuff but should be able to tap into the marketplace and know strategies in industries that they can pass on to others. During the COVID-19 pandemic, thought leaders have had to continue to adapt. No longer able to attend conferences and other in-person events, they have made social media, podcasts and zoom conventions their primary source of spreading their expertise and connecting with industry communities.
We should never underestimate the importance of creating new thought leaders. Not only do these leaders themselves benefit from opportunities in careers, thought leadership continues to be a vital part of industries, helping them to grow and adapt. Young people are essential to keeping the future of thought leadership bright.
By Nargis Jafferali, Co-founder, Blazon