What is thought leadership?

Posted on August 30, 2014

I got this question on twitter after announcing Write/Speak/Code 2014. She felt “thought leadership” was a meaningless buzz word. And I see her point. It is often used that way.

Taking the Write out of Write Day … and adding Thought Leadership

Write/Speak/Code was partially inspired by The Op-Ed Project seminar — a day long seminar focused on getting more woman to submit Op-Eds.

Much of what was discussed in the seminar — acknowledging and owning your expertise, how to be persuasive, how to handle criticism — was so relevant and essential to all the conversations on woman’s lack of participation in speaking and open source.

And yet … many developers feel a little queasy about “writing.” To some, writing meant poetry or fiction or books or other soft things developers just don’t do. And perhaps for woman this is particularly sticky as they don’t want to be associated with “woman’s work” or administrative work.

On Thought Leadership

So we searched around for another word to capture what we wanted to do on Write Day. The best we could come up with Thought Leadership.

And I’ve come to believe that it does have meaning — A LOT of meaning.

I think we all have a good sense of the word leadership. Yes? Leaders are at the front of a group, an industry, a topic, a technology. People rally around them and follow what they say.

Thought leadership is leadership in the form of ideas. Who is leading in terms of how to run a software team? Who is leading in terms of code organization? Who is leading in terms of code tools, techniques, or process?

In other words …

  • Who is writing the handbook on being a developer?
  • Who is writing blog posts and books?
  • Who is speaking about their code, techniques, and process?
  • Who is writing new tools, languages, and frameworks?

Who are engineers listening to?

Who defines what it means to be a software developer?

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