We say Thought Leadership is an important aspect of our social personas, but the label of Thought Leader is earned, not assumed. Expertise, and especially authority, in an academic or professional area is the result of a demonstrated path of research, writing, and, in the context of social networking, vigorous public discussion of your ideas.

One’s complete digital footprint, which includes both content and conversation, defines a commitment to investigation and expansion of knowledge in one’s chosen area of expertise. As this week’s guest Ken Gordon reminds us: “if you want people to accept your intellectual authority, you’d better have some kind of long-form writing to support your tweets.”

Traditionally, Thought Leadership meant publication in respected sources like professional journals. Today, it includes self-published content in personal and professional blogs. Our Ehsan Khodarahmi calls this the rise in importance of the Citizen Journalist. This is all well and good as long as our Citizen Journalists adhere to the journalistic guidelines that keep them honest. Or, make sure that the publication of their own opinions are labeled up front as commentary.

Social networking is an optimal forum for establishing and promoting your expertise and authority as it affords opportunities in both creating original content and curating content from others’ research. Critical thought and critique of others’ publications is a crucial aspect of Thought Leadership.

Innovative ideas are considered a cornerstone of thought leadership. The status quo is not the path to the cutting edge. Do thought leaders have an obligation to push boundaries? To question everything? To stir up debate? We think so. Let’s discuss.

Q1) How do you define Thought Leadership? How is thought leadership demonstrated, esp. in the social forum?

Q2) We build our reputations through our expertise. Is it appropriate to point out your own Thought Leadership? When/how?

Q3) What are the risks/benefits in citing your own authority?

Q4) Is it appropriate to challenge others’ claims of authority? When/how?

Q5) Social networks are noisy. How do authoritative figures know they’re being heard?

This week’s #SMXChat guest is Ken Gordon, who always seems to be jamming at the corner of innovation and humanism. Always at the keyboard. Ken’s work at Continuum, a global design consultancy, is described thus:

“Ken makes Continuum’s work visible to the necessary audiences. He creates superlative content, works with colleagues to do the same, and employs social networks to share it widely,” says his bio for Continuum. “A card-carrying humanist, Ken co-founded QuickMuse, the improvisational writing website, and JEDLAB, the Jewish education community. He has written for TheAtlantic.com, Fast Company, the New York Times, and many other pubs.”