How do we define “thought leadership,” or more specifically, how should the term be applied to the retail automobile industry? According to Wikipedia, the term “thought leader” was coined in 1994 by Booz Allen Hamilton, a Fortune 500 corporate consulting firm, and it was used to describe individuals or firms that introduced business ideas that “merited attention.” Without question, thought leaders tend to be the most successful people or organizations within their respective fields. However, I believe that the definition needs to go far deeper than that.
There seem to be many definitions of the term. It would probably be worthwhile to try defining just what a thought leader is, or maybe more importantly, what a thought leader is not. I think that what differentiates a thought leader from any other knowledgeable individual (or company), is the recognition from the outside world that the thought leader deeply understands his business, the needs of his customers, and the broader marketplace in which he operates. I believe that thought leadership requires a spirit of unselfishness…the sharing of one’s time, intelligence, and knowledge (even if these things are often provided at a profit). I understand that thought leadership is the “buzzterm” for expertise, but I think that the most important descriptors of a thought leader are “innovative” and “ground-breaking.”
Some of you may consider me to be a thought leader. I’ve got news for you; that’s not today’s primary mission of Garry House & Associates. Our priority is to provoke thought…by identifying opportunities within your dealerships, by seeking and recognizing best practices to capitalize on those opportunities, by communicating those practices, by documenting those best practices as written processes, by training those processes, by helping you implement those processes, by asking you the “hard questions” about why you aren’t habitually performing and flawlessly executing those processes, and by assisting you in enhancing those processes. There’s nothing innovative and ground-breaking about that specific mission.
Personally, I’ve identified a number of thought leaders who have influenced my professional development. Early in my retail career, F. Lee Galles (Competitive Edge) and John Williamson (Key-Royal Automotive Group), as well as Clint McGee (GO, Inc.) and Lew Whitehead (Automotive Service Consultants), with whom John had partnered in their consulting firms, were definitely some of my thought leaders.
Today I consider Dave Anderson (LearnToLead.com), Dale Pollak (vAuto), Chris Saraceno (DealerELITE.net), Tommy Gibbs (TommyGibbsTraining.com), and Jared Hamilton (DrivingSales.com) to be several of my thought leaders. There certainly have been, are, and will be many other industry thought leaders with significant impact on me.
Either as I define it (or as you define it yourself), when YOU think of the term retail auto industry thought leader, who comes to mind? I’d like to know, and I’m sure others would also. Share with me, and I’ll share with everyone! Please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.