Top 10 Hurdles to Becoming a B2B Thought Leader…and the Secrets to Overcoming Them

posted by on March 3 2010 in Thought Leadership - 4 Comments

As I write this post, there are over 280 people who claim to be “thought leaders” in their Twitter biography. It’s certainly a popular label, but I’m pretty certain they haven’t all earned the title.463610938_c627cea61da

Why? In the 20 years I’ve spent helping clients develop content, I’ve noticed a critical (though perhaps blindingly obvious) fact. It’s pretty hard to become a thought leader. The hurdles include:

  1. Analysis Paralysis: Your need to make something perfect essentially dooms the project.
  2. Competitive Distractions: You are so focused on a competitor that you ignore your prospects.
  3. Junior Partner Syndrome: You don’t believe your ideas are good enough.
  4. Calendar before Content: You keep waiting for the right moment…that never comes.
  5. Peer Review Ricochet: You need approval from an internal cast of thousands.
  6. Your Idea is About You: Your audience is somehow supposed to “make the bridge” to why it matters to them.
  7. You Make an Assumption About Your Audience: But your audience doesn’t agree with it.
  8. Burning Wo/Man: You’ve been burned before. (Gentle reminder: That makes you exactly like every great thinker.)
  9. No ‘So What:’ Your topic lacks differentiation, making it easy to ignore.
  10. Coitus Interruptus: Your observations don’t build towards an actionable climax.


But you can jump over these hurdles. Here’s how:

  • Get granular: Steer away from giant sized fears and focus on small do-able projects that build your confidence.
  • Get Factual: Nothing beats hyperbole better than cold hard facts. Use research to cut through the emotional clutter.
  • Get Creative: There is another way to accomplish your objective. Circle until you find it.
  • Get off your High Horse: Compromise. Is there a study you can do to round out your hypothesis or an article you can co-author with a credible third party?


When all else fails, listen. The best thought leaders start by reflecting on the wisdom of others.

Have you encountered another hurdle for this list? How do you jump them?


To reach Elizabeth:

Phone:  212.840.0017 
Twitter: @elizabethsosnow
LinkedIn: Elizabeth Sosnow

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4 Comments on "Top 10 Hurdles to Becoming a B2B Thought Leader…and the Secrets to Overcoming Them"
  1. Mark W Schaefer
    03/03/2010 at 10:09 PM Permalink

    Congratulations for penning the first legitimate blog post to use the term “coitus interruptus.” Personally i did not think i would live to see the day, so this liberation of our language is met with great joy. Please, everyone join me in a happy dance.

    OK, you may now resume your regularly scheduled blog.

    I think the biggest asset to being or becoming a thought leader is confidence. Honestly, LOTS of people have great thoughts, but how many have the guts to put ‘em out there?

    Thanks, Elizabeth!

  2. Elizabeth Sosnow
    03/03/2010 at 10:34 PM Permalink

    Thanks, Mark. I needed that laugh.

    I heartily agree with you about confidence, or lack thereof, in thought leaders. A former CEO client of mine took close to 3 years to become comfortable with expressing themselves to the outside world.

    We ultimately overcame that hurdle by “circling the wagons.” Small but constant projects made it begin to feel both routine and safe for the person to communicate.

    Believe me, that was cause for a “happy dance,” right there. ;)

  3. Robert Cornet
    03/04/2010 at 5:32 PM Permalink

    I’ll join the happy dance about surprising #10, but believe #6 — your idea is about you — is more on the money.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking blog, Elizabeth.

  4. Adam
    03/04/2010 at 6:19 PM Permalink

    Another hurdle I would add to the list is “use of technical jargon”. So much of what happens in business today involves technology. Too many people use jargon and talk about technical issues when they should be ignoring the technology and addressing the issue/solution/innovation… etc…

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