Following on from the last two days, here are my answers for today’s TEDxLibrariansTO Coundown Questions:

Question 1: How can experience of failure contribute to making an effective thought leader?

Failure is useful for a thought leader in the same way that it’s useful for everyone. We can learn a lot from our failures: how to dust ourselves off and start over, how to rethink what we’ve done before and learn from our mistakes, how to put what we do in a larger interpersonal, organizational and social context. After all, just as we rarely succeed alone, we also rarely fail alone. Sure, the act of failure may be uniquely our own but very often we end up dragging others down with us.

Hopefully the most important thing we can all learn from failure is a bit of humbleness. Thought leaders by definition are going to need to be confident and forthright. They are going to need the inner strength to be able to stand up and state their ideas in full view, to take their lumps and engage in vigorous debate.

But they also need to be able to see the web of interconnections between all the stakeholders their ideas may influence. They need to be honest and realistic about the value and scope of their ideas, not over-hype or over-universalize or oversell.

I’ll admit to being generally quite skeptical about thought leaders in general and in particular of self-proclaimed thought leaders.

It’s those thought leaders that are the most desperate to be recognized as such, who most need the accolades and attention that come with being an influential expert or important innovator — they are the ones I instinctively distrust.

And it’s often because they seem to lack a certain humbleness. It’s difficult to balance confidence and humbleness, I know, but those are the thought leaders I really value.

(Am I throwing stones in a glass house here? Am I a self-proclaimed thought leader whose immense hubris has lead me to publish this delusional and ill-advised screed? I’m afraid I just can’t tell. You’ll have to let me know.)

Question 2: What venues are available to us to constructively criticize each others ideas?

This is a tough one as I’ve been involved in a few Internet scrapes myself over the years. But I’ll have to go with the rough and tumble dialogue we see online in blogs and on Twitter and Friendfeed as the best places to debate and criticize each others ideas.

It can be unpleasant and angry and seemingly uncivil at times but it’s the best and most honest and open forum we have.

Comments

  1. #1 Anonymous
    June 22, 2011

    Humbleness? Is it not “humility”?

  2. #2 John Dupuis
    June 23, 2011

    Yeah, I guess I could have gone either way and perhaps “humility” would have been better.

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