Corporate Zoo

Everyone’s a Thought Leader

Thought Leadership


I recently attended a conference, and heard Daniel Flynn speak from Thank-you @danielmflynn.

His story was truly amazing. The amount of set backs he had trying to get this business started was ridiculous and heartbreaking to hear. But at the same time he and his team never gave up.

Daniel had a vision, and keep getting back up and not taking no for an answer until he reached it. And it got everyone in the room feeling motivated and like they too, could conquer anything.

After 5 years, they finally got to where they wanted to be and are now helping thousands of underprivileged people get sanitised water, food and other basic items to fight serious disease and empower them to live a more prosperous life.

When I reflected on his speech, I found myself thinking about the way a lot of businesses are run and the thought leadership that occurs in businesses.

  • We all have a title.
  • We have a “job description” and our patch we manage.
  • We have a hierarchy, some with offices, and others who sit outside.
  • We all have a manager, love them or hate them.
  • At times we need to “influence” or manipulate (whatever you want to call it) into believing an idea or concept.
  • We have a type of culture we create, which always comes from the top.
  • We need to typically run things past multiple people to get “sign off”.
  • If you have an idea, you’ll probably need to run it past your Manager first because that’s the right thing to do. And if they don’t like it, then that’s kind of it. Because if you go above them then that’s really disrespecting the chain of command.

As I was listening to him, I could clearly see why businesses would be failing in today’s environment. And I think it’s all because there’s too much structure and not enough flexibility to truly embrace new ideas and ways of doing things that could in fact be better for the business.

People have been working in the same way, for too long. So aren’t seeing the Daniel’s, or embracing thought leadership when it’s all right in front of them. Regardless of the persons position within the company.

Like the Daniel’s of the world, if he was working for a company, there were too many things going against him. He was young, hadn’t “done his time”, he knew nothing about the water industry. So why would a company back him when they could get someone who had 30 years experience doing what he was talking about?

Most Gen Y’s and even more Gen X’s are like Daniel. Naturally a generation of thought leaders, “we see possibilities and can do or achieve anything”. And as soon as the walls start coming up, most of us look outside of the corporate world to see if we can do it ourselves.

Ruslan Kogan is a great example and so is this news article, stating that the majority of new businesses in the past 12 months have been started by under 35 year olds.

So what can businesses do about it?

I truly believe, that if any business is to survive, we need to open up the ability for people of any levels or roles, to share in their ideas and be empowered to do so.

Fine – keep the titles, the job descriptions and structure. But perhaps we can put in programs or start changing the culture/mentality that if the idea is good for the company and there’s an opportunity – take your ideas to the top or the person who’s in charge of that department. Don’t worry about “respecting” the chain of command and feeling blocked by your manager.

Even better, ensure your intranet has a section just for new ideas and opportunities that their employees might see. That way it’s all transparent and everyone can take responsibility for anyone’s idea.

Because I don’t think it’s about chain and command anymore, it’s about having an idea for any part of the business, being fast and having the structure to support making it happen. Sure not all ideas are practical, but providing the opportunity for people to be empowered and be heard is a better step than not having anything at all.

Sure, Ruslan is now one of the richest guys in Australia, but imagine what he could of done when he was working for Accenture?

We should all be empowered to be thought leaders.



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