By definition; It is when an individual or a company that is a pioneer in the field of the expertise is regarded as an authority in a particular field. It is stated in the Oxford English Dictionary that the first quote (1876) was used for Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Max Weber on the other hand, considers the idea of thought leadership to be inherently contradictory, although it is conceived as a complimentary explanation (Source;

Thought leadership was introduced as a definition in 1994 in Strategy and Business magazine by Joel Kurtzman, chief editor of the magazine. However, this concept has become popular especially in the last decade, when digitalization and social media usage have increased. With this popularization, the questions that ‘’what is its definition, what does it work and how to be a thought leader’’ has become a matter of debate.

Although there are various definitions of thought leadership, it still remains a vague or  misunderstood concept for many people today. Actually, this is because thought leadership is multidimensional. For example, Celi and Miller regard thought leadership as “intellectual commitment”, while Vanden Huevel and Badings see it as  “successfully reflecting a company’s vision, insights and solutions to ensure customer loyalty.” Representing the vision of a company is a practice of thought leadership. Having the same perspective with the company and acting in that direction is an approach expected from all employees. However, thought leaders not only have this approach and apply it to their work, they also reflect this approach to almost everyone in the organization and become role models in this regard.(Source: Harvard Business Review Date: 07.01.2019 Güç Kavramının Yeni Formu Düşünce Liderliği)

In the light of all this information, I would like to evaluate the notion of thought leadership, which is discussed in many fields, especially in marketing, in human resources recruitment processes.

Many definitions change and transform in human resources processes, and many new notions are included in the processes. The period we live in strikingly reveals the fact that the greatest power of organizations is good people who are talented, creative, well-intentioned, resilient against uncertainties, curious, open to change, development and learning. Years ago, the number of employees and the power of the brands were being discussed, while today the investments of 5-person companies, the efforts made to be agile, the institutions and professions that will not exist in the future are in our daily conversations. Institutions explain how difficult it is to find candidates, and candidates explain their disappointment with institutions at every opportunity. While some of us constantly criticize the new generation, some of us accept the fact that we are in business life for four generations and move on to the new models. The fact that the superiority of the institutions in the power balance has disappeared and accepting that institutions have to make extra effort to reach talented people is not an option but a necessity now. If organizations want to reach learning, curious and talented people, they should also know that these people will search the institution in every medium, look at the profiles of the employees, investigate as an interrogator what the institution created so far, and listen to the heritage that they want to leave to the future. In an environment where ‘’I posted a job advert, if you like it, apply for it’’ period is already over, the institution needs to give people a holistic experience beyond introducing itself, and to progress positively in all experiences such as with candidates, employees, customers, users, etc. Thought leadership comes as a resource that attracts the attention of demanded and talented people in this reality and it creates much more impact than an advertisement.

Regardless of team members or senior executives, we can call people who remain active and interested in the industry, create continuous high-quality content, communicate based on research, knowledge or experience and who are accepted by the relevant people as a natural result, and are influenced by many people, thought leaders.

We can describe the fact that thought leadership is a resource in the recruitment processes, as we mentioned above, as a way for thought leaders to support the successes, failures, researches, projects, knowledge that they experienced and observed in the institution, to create content that reflects their expertise in the best way, to share these contents in relevant mediums, to attract the attention of many talents and to create an impact on these talents while choosing the relevant institution.

Candidates who want to take part in the institution where these people are present can often reach the institution through these people or if you want to tell those candidates about your institution yourself, showing these people as your address while explaining your greatest power and talking about your employees, makes it easier for your institution to be preferred.

As a matter of course, being based on sharing experiences, knowledge, differences, abilities, successes, lessons, difficulties and innovations on the right platforms, with the right language, the sharing is one of the necessary features for thought leadership. Also, when the people who provides sharing are appreciated by their colleagues or relevant parties in the sector, and they are considered pioneers, it naturally ensures the formation of thought leadership. This makes being a thought leader independent of positions, age and labels.

Reaching talented candidates in recruitment processes always creates a competitive environment. And in this competitive environment, small or medium-sized companies often states that their competition against the power of brands of large institutions decreases and they cannot fully explain and reflect many positive features.  Thus right here, the fact that small or medium sized companies take action plans that will support the rising of the thought leaders, plays a supportive role in attracting many talents to remain in a competitive environment during talent transfers.

When we look at job change decisions, of course salary is an important factor but it is no longer in the first ranking. The desire of many talents to work together with the best thought leaders in their expertise field and the desire to act together as a team which consists of people they appreciate are one of the most important factors while making decisions of change. The environment of trust in institutions, influence many people in a positive way while making decisions since it is one of the most important factors that explain the culture of the instituion, the atmosphere, the managers and who will work with whom, and since it gives the message that institutions with thought leaders are highly creative, open to development, improvement, learning, and assuring.  the perception that that institution learns, develops, researches, respects ideas if thought leaders emerge from institutions, makes it stand out as a strong side.

In order to make broad-based action plans for thought leadership, it is of course essential that the climate and culture of the organization are convenient for this.

Since the question that if there is a thought leader within some institutions, will the institutions want to praise them and always want them to show their good sides and will it reflect the truth, always comes up from the participants so often while I teach these in my trainings, I feel the need to remind the participants again that thought leaders cannot emerge or get along in institutions with such an environments. Because thought leaders are accepted by their colleagues with a natural attitude due to their sophisticated, intellectual, well equipped, creative personalities and pioneering the sharing and thoughts, they cannot go around praising the institution or not reflecting the truth. If they do, it is not possible to be accepted as a thought leader anyway. The power of thought leaders in influencing many talents in the recruiting process also comes from the environment of integrity and sincerity here.

While the balance of power has changed among candidates and institutions in recruitment processes, while the future place of many brands and professions are being discussed, the people in the organizations are the greatest power and value and it is getting harder day by day to find and attract talented people with universal values, I wish that cultures that will create thought leaders and keep them increases and competition increases in this direction aswell.

Başak Gül Çakır

Peoplefocus HR General Manager

Eylül 2020-İstanbul

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