Definition of thought leadership

Thought leadership is a (marketing) process that influences through the power of an idea. I put marketing in brackets because that is how it has traditionally been viewed. However, done well, thought leadership is also a transformative process of innovation in products and services.

Thought leadership process

InDepth's visualisation of thought leadership

As illustrated in the diagram, the basic process of thought leadership involves deep thinking about a topic, ideation, people being impressed by the idea and their subsequent desire to enter into a relationship with the originator of the idea. However, the simplicity of this diagram does not reflect the complexity ​behind each step of the process. Thought leadership is hard and thankfully so, otherwise your thought leadership would not be valuable.

The thinking process itself is problematic because the human brain is inherently limited in its ability to keep track of the rich diversity of thoughts running through the mind. If you really want to create break through thinking, then tools are needed to overcome this limitation.

The ideation process in particular is poorly served by literature on thought leadership, with much of it assuming​ a person already has their great idea ready to go. What is assumed is thought leadership is all about highly creative individuals. However, anyone can be creative using a vast array of proven processes and facilitated groups are generally more creative than individuals. What is needed is a repeatable process to manage ideation around thought leadership.

To get that expression on the emoji's face you need excellent communication and marketing of your idea. There is a lot of good material in the content marketing space to assist here. However, the crux of the challenge is crystallizing the presentation of your idea ​in a way that creates an instant connection with your audience. Again, there is assistance in the boundary spanning literature, although it is less well known.

Finally, the main aim of thought leadership is to establish a knowledge-based partnership with all stakeholders in your value chain, including customers, suppliers and the public. Done well, this feeds a virtuous cycle of knowledge sharing that leads to more insights. The challenge here is to ensure thought leadership is well integrated with wider organisational processes and supported by the right culture.

Thought leadership is the new gold standard of marketing for any knowledge-based organisation that wants to differentiate itself from competitors or needs to cut through the noise of information overload to reach an audience. It’s also increasingly popular for individual professionals as a basis for developing their careers, to standout in a field of talented candidates. InDepth has encapsulated the above approach in a workshop, details below.

Thought leadership workshop

Thought leadership case study

Identifying the essence of thought leadership

The following workshop structure includes working sessions to develop your thought leadership theme and implementation plan.

  • Session 1: The nature of thought leadership
    • The golden rules of thought leadership
    • Best practice examples
    • The spectrum of thought leadership types
    • Characteristics of a thought leader
    • Benefits
    Thought Leadership positions

    Mapping thought leadership positions against theme

  • Session 2: Creating your leadership theme
    • Finding your domain and passion
    • Identification of drivers and need
    • Insight generation processes
    • Developing your theme
    • Reality check
  • Session 3: Soft selling your leadership position
    • Principles of content marketing
    Thought leadership audience

    Identifying your ideal thought leadership audience

    • Targeting your audience
    • Creation of effective materials
    • Working with social media
    • Publishing productivity
  • Session 4: Integrating into the business
    • Strategic alignment and competitive positioning
    • Monetisation 
    • Impact measurement
    • Building a thought leadership team

The above workshop is delivered in three formats. 

  • Public workshops are delivered through our training partner Engineering Education Australia and may be attended by individuals. Details on cost and schedule are available on their website.
  • Standard inhouse workshops are delivered directly by InDepth or through Engineering Education Australia. These one day workshops basically replicate the public workshops but can be adjusted to suit a particular organisation's emphasis on the different parts of the thought leadership process.
  • Full service inhouse workshops are delivered by InDepth over two days. The full service involves facilitated development of actual thought leadership themes and positions, ready for implementation at the end of the workshop. 

To discuss the inhouse workshops, please contact us

Thought leadership services

InDepth provides the following services to individuals and organisations wishing to outsource parts of the thought leadership process.​

  • ​Ideation facilitation: We work with you to identify the most appropriate group creativity process and facilitate all ideation sessions. We include options for recording, transcribing and documenting any outputs.
  • Coaching: We can provide one-on-one coaching for individuals that are struggling to identify or express their leadership theme. This services includes individual ideation facilitation, communication style coaching and public speaking training.
  • Ghost writing: For experts whose time is limited, we offer ghost writing services. We interview the expert on their chose topic and develop a draft thought leadership item, usually a whitepaper.
  • Editing: We take your draft materials and polish them till they are ready to present, using a consistent style across different items of content. This service includes suggestions for expressing content in a way that is more engaging.
  • Format and media conversion: We help you multiply the value of hard won thought leadership positions by converting content into different formats and media, including infographics and audio visual. This may include creating new material to suite the different format.

​To discuss any of these services, please contact us.


Simon Davis National Business Development Manager
GTA Consultants

Tim Kannegieter (InDepth's program) presents the science and the art of thought leadership in a pragmatic manner, providing tools that will enable our practitioners to develop their thinking into implementable communications.

More testimonials here.

Free reality checklist for your thought leadership campaign 

Thought leadership reality check

​Got an idea for thought leadership or have developed one? Run it past our free reality checklist to see if you are clear on your positioning.

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