Like content strategy, thought leadership is a relatively new option for companies that want to improve their visibility and connections online in ways that prompt sales leads to come to you.

But thought leadership is, much more than content strategy, subject to the Bill Joy rule, which says that most smart people in the world don't work for your company.

How, then, do you possibly develop a thought leadership strategy?

If you get your thought leadership strategy right, customers will see you as a go-to source of expertise, your new products or incremental improvements will find easier acceptance, you'll stand a good chance of bolstering product price (which is critical in many industries where commoditization is at work), and you'll attract talent more easily.

Inevitably, some companies will get it wrong, so in this article I will outline why that happens, how to avoid the major mistakes companies make, and what to do to excel in thought leadership.

Why Companies Get It Wrong

Take a look at Verizon's thought leadership strategy as a prime example of "getting it wrong." The major purpose of that strategy seems to be to elevate the status of the company's executives in the eyes of the buying public. Verizon's microsite for thought leadership showcases executive opinion across a range of topics, such as security, consumerization of information technology (IT), the Cloud, retail, and "everything as a service."

The challenge, however, is that Verizon executives can't hope to be thought leaders in all those (and several other) areas. Thinking they could lead in any area they wish is a legacy of old management thinking. And thinking that a regular supply of content is a leadership strategy is also an error in thought leadership strategy.

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Haydn Shaughnessy is a writer and adviser who specializes in understanding the personal, cultural, and strategic dynamics of change. He focuses his work on the social Web, the transition to social business, and the development of the Elastic Enterprise. His book on the Elastic Enterprise, written with Nick Vitalari, has just been published.