Feed your mind by finding and following thought leaders

Brian Solis I recently graduated from a Google-run digital marketing course called Squared and one of the big benefits was access to industry luminaries who shared their experiences & predictions for the future.

The coursework put me in the habit of regularly reading thought provoking content from a range of people, with digital analyst and futurist Brian Solis proving a particular favourite. If you haven’t checked out his blog, you should.

It made me wonder who other people turn to for inspiration and to keep their thinking fresh so I turned to some leading lights to discover their thought leaders. Here’s what they had to say.

Sarah Pinch, director of Pinch Point Communications and President Elect of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations: “One author I return to again and again is Hillary Rodham Clinton.  She offers great insight into how governments, organisations and individuals learn (or not) from success and mistakes.  She’s exceptionally frank and honest, and I’ve found inspiration to toughen up my not very thick skin.  I’m really looking forward to starting ‘Hard Choices’, her new book, in the next few days.”

David Laud, a partner in i2i Business Solutions LLP and Growth Accelerator Coach, said: “Thought leadership has become something of a hashtag trend but it's often misunderstood.  Saying you're one doesn't make it true.  For me an effective thought leader is someone who can not only present their own original stimulating ideas but also have the vision and humility to see and share excellence in others.

“Someone I would regard as a true thought leader is Guy Kawasaki. He’s an entrepreneur with an eye for the use of technology in communication. With a very direct and engaging delivery, Motorola and Apple on his CV plus a wide variety of successful investment projects he not only talks the talk, he's shown he can deliver and back winners.”

Angela Carrington, owner of The Bigger Picture Agency Limited, explained that thought leaders don’t have to be from within your own industry to be useful: “I haven't yet come across an inspirational thought leader within my industry and (perhaps controversially) I find a lot of photography 'thinkers' to be incredibly introspective. I prefer to gain my inspiration from the entrepreneurial community, looking at their lives as well as their results/successes.

“It may be a little predictable but I am genuinely inspired by Richard Branson. I regularly read his blog and find his honesty refreshing and insightful. His candid, 'matter-of-fact' advice really helps to put things into perspective for even a smaller business.”

Last but not least, Ross Wigham, head of communications’s for Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, had this to say: "When it comes to inspiration I'm a firm believer that you have to try and take it from everywhere and anywhere. I try to keep an eye on things away from my own particular sector to help try and think differently - that could be an old book, a film or even good comedy. Twitter is an obvious home for thought leadership and there are so many good blogs out there.

“However the key, un-missable one for me is something you listen to rather than read: From our own correspondent. Each podcast is a beautifully crafted life lesson that brings the world to my little corner of the North East. I never fail to learn something or be moved by it."

Ross couldn’t have put it better - there is inspiration all around if you look. Make the time to search, because when you discover the right people and the right content, it’s amazing what insights you can gain. Each one can help make you and your business much bigger and better, not to mention fit for the future.