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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  September 21, 2017

The Dark Side of Thought Leadership

Buckle up. According to a recent New Republic article, The Rise of the Thought Leader, objective thinking has been hijacked. This expose draws back the curtain on dirty deeds in the “ideas” marketplace.

Yes, some thought leaders are born out of pandering and partisan intentions. Let’s move past the “who is doing what and why” arguments and the author’s own flame throwing. (Going tit for tat here can last for years on social media.) Instead, I’m focused on two developments I see as a result:

• Competing world views. I agree – many thought leaders market a narrative that becomes popular through agreement. (I’ve called this the “leader of a movement” brand model since the early 1990s; thought leaders have branded their ideas way before then.) Prediction: The market will move from creating alternative ideas to outright attacks. Be prepared to defend your perspective, even in the “respectful” corporate markets.


Listen: How to deal with the nay-sayers


• Intentions will be questioned. Between think tanks for partisan purposes and rogue sponsors skewing scientific research, trust in objectivity and analysis has already declined. Prediction: Movement from questioning ideas and thinking to broad accusations of biased intentions will become the status quo for thought leaders. Our role and the people we serve will be put under a microscope.

Exposes such as this are important. We need to know who is infiltrating our “objective” institutions. The sad part: The resulting lack of trust will trickle down to thought leaders. So, it’s about to get personal. Get ready. Stay classy.


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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.