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Your hero is my villain
Think. Write. Lead. -- Issue #86
Practicing thought leadership is a lot like being a tourist in a foreign country.
What is natural for others jumps out as odd to you.
Because your worldview is not tainted by the local culture, you're able to see things differently.
Let me explain.
As I went through an interactive exhibit at the Tower of London, I felt uneasy about the way this particular historical event was portrayed.
It was about a peasant insurrection against the king, and how the starving and oppressed people of London attacked the castle.
In my eyes, they were right to riot against a ruler who oppressed them.
But this exhibit addressed visitors as guards for the king.
We were supposed to take the side of the king and protect the monarchy against the 'evil' peasants.
The story ended on a celebratory note as the royal guard squashed the rebellion.
It felt wrong to me.
A few weeks later, I told this story to Linda, a Danish teacher I met through my wife.
She said that in her classes, she used to teach about the Vikings as great warriors, shipbuilders, and the esteemed ancestors of the Danes.
That's just how the Danish have been raised to feel about the Vikings.
Once, Linda had a student from Norway who seemed very upset about her lesson on the Vikings.
'What's wrong?' Linda asked her.
'The Vikings were not heroes,' the student said. 'They came to my country to steal, rape, and kill for a long time. They were our villains.'
Ouch. Hard truth.
Your hero is another person's villain.
And vice versa.
Now, as you approach thought leadership, you must look critically at your industry, like a tourist from another culture, and spot what might be wrong that everyone else is okay with.
Destroy the status quo
Sacrifice holy cows
Don't mind being politically incorrect
Turn heroes into villains and villains into heroes
And all this is not just for the sake of being controversial or becoming the dictators of morality.
Instead, it's because thought leadership (similar to category design) breaks with what doesn't work today to usher in a better future.
Am I looking at my industry with a critical eye, questioning the status quo?
Have I identified any 'holy cows' in my industry that need to be sacrificed for progress?
Am I willing to be politically incorrect if it means highlighting a truth that needs to be addressed?
Have I considered that my industry's heroes might be villains in another context?
Am I being controversial for the sake of change and improvement, rather than just to stir the pot?
Identify one "holy cow" in your industry—a practice or belief that is rarely questioned. Write down a piece arguing against it.
Think of a topic in your industry that is generally avoided due to political correctness. Write a post addressing it, ensuring you back your points with facts and logical reasoning.
Thought leadership is not for everyone.
The job description includes being comfortable with thorny topics, thinking hard, being opinionated and contrarian sometimes… and not shying away from controversy.
But leadership is not meant to be easy.
Are you up for the challenge? Are you ready to turn heroes into villains?
Go for it.
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