McCrimmon (2005), author of “thought leadership,” discusses how thought leadership is different in comparison to positional and traditional leadership (p. 1064). Thought leadership involves people believing in your ideas. It is a way of influencing people without them knowing that you are convincing them that your idea is the better one. Anyone can exhibit thought leadership as long as they are open to rejection.
Thought leadership surfaces in many different ways; by suggestions made in a meeting, by examples performed by peers, and through factual information presented. Thought leadership is a bottom up approach such that ideas emerge among regular working people and eventually get passed to the upper management. Therefore, thought leadership ends as soon as upper management decides to use the ideas and suggestions. Conversely, positional leadership is a top down leadership where decision making from the top leads to an action at the bottom.
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Positional leadership is managing people to assist an organization in achieving a goal. There is a designated leader who directs people to execute assignments. Because these leaders hold a title, they are deemed creditable and trustworthy. Also, they must have influencing skills and emotional intelligence so their subordinates will do what is asked of them. Through personal experience or classroom setting, a positional leader’s managing skills can be learned.
In comparing the two types of leadership, the author believes any company that needs innovation to survive and prosper must incorporate thought leadership. All organizations have positional leadership within their corporation but it is important for managers to promote an environment that empowers employees to have unique thoughts. The employees need to feel they can challenge the status quo. While it is important to organize and achieve a joint task, an organization must not forgo thought leadership as it is the key to success.