The Catch-22 of Thought Leadership


Train station, 8.42 am


There’s a sense of relief as I emerge into the sunlit streets, leaving behind the usual commuter crush of this time in the morning. I’m on my way to a meeting with a client we’ve been chasing for months, and I could do with a coffee first. I notice they have pumpkin spiced lattes on the menu – it’s definitely autumn, I think to myself, as I order my usual cappuccino with almond milk.


I check my phone. Amongst the usual slew of emails, there’s one from my marketing manager. It’s about this new thought leadership initiative that we talked about the other day – a blog series about our take on the latest trends in our industry. I now have to come up with some concepts for the first article.


I sigh. I guess I should have been expecting this email. We’ve been saying for ages now that we ‘need to do more thought leadership’. Everybody talks about it these days – we’ve got Forbes saying thought leadership should be a business priority in 2019, and Source Global ranking firms by the quality of thought leadership in their White Space Report (no prizes for guessing the top five – IBM, BCG, Deloitte – all the usual suspects). The internet is full of articles on the definition of thought leadership, as no one seems to be able to agree on exactly what it is, and you can get any number of books on the subject. My coach even tells me you can get specific thought leadership training these days.


And I get it – I’ve been reading Mckinsey’s Quarterly magazine for years. For them, this thought leadership concept is not new, and it clearly works. I see how much they invest in providing discerning and contemporary insights; I see how that builds trust and reputation; I see how that defines them as ‘leaders of thought’. But the key word there is investment. Unlike McKinsey, I don’t have an established research capacity or a senior editorial team. I don’t have a gigantic budget to hand over to content creation. And I certainly don’t have a lot of time to come up with new and innovative ideas myself.


Speaking of time, I check my watch. Time to go, or I’ll be late for this meeting. I grab my coffee cup, thank the barista and head out. As my thoughts turn to my client and today’s agenda, I make a mental note to think about the article later. I half consider emailing marketing and asking them to come up with some ideas themselves first…


But I know that’s just a stalling method. I understand that, for us to write anything vaguely worth reading, the insights will have to come from me or someone on our senior leadership team. It’s just frustrating because all of us are busy keeping this ship afloat, and none of us particularly like writing. What do we write about anyway? What do we have to say that no one has said before? I really wouldn’t know where to start…


I step into the foyer of my client’s offices. I’m slightly nervous – today could be the day we seal the deal, but I know they’ve been talking to our competitor. As the receptionist signs me in, a thought occurs to me: if I had some pithy and hard-hitting insights for this thought leadership thing, it might actually help me win this contract, but it’s because I have to be here with this client that I don’t have the space to come up with those insights. ‘It’s a Catch-22,’ I think to myself, as the lift door open to reveal my client’s smiling Head of Strategy, ‘but one that I’ll have to figure out later…’




By Catie Romero-Finger and Anjalee Perera


Catie Romero-Finger


Catie is a business consultant, strategic communication expert, and co-founder of Censfera, the pioneering business model consultancy that puts storytelling at its core.


Despite gaining over ten years’ experience in strategic marketing and communications, Catie’s passion for expression and deep thought now drive her to radically change the way marketing as a field is perceived in the business world.


Having worked with leaders and in leadership roles herself, Catie developed a keen understanding that a strong vision narrative is more than a fluffy marketing concept – it impacts the business model itself. By connecting her passion to her purpose, Catie was inspired her to create Censfera with her business partner, Anjalee Perera. She now works with leadership not only to capture their vision, but to become a consistent source of it.


Outside of work, Catie is an avid fitness fan, and loves to try new and challenging ways to stay in shape both mentally and physically. She enjoys reading business literature to stay up to date with current trends, and is outspoken about the need to find balance in life, as she cherishes her time with her two young children.


Anjalee Perera


Anjalee Perera is a business consultant, writer and co-founder of Censfera, the pioneering business model consultancy with a focus on storytelling.


A qualified doctor of medicine and surgery, Anjalee left her clinical days behind her in 2015 to pursue a more creatively fulfilling career. Through her subsequent work in the strategic marketing, communications and broadcasting fields, Anjalee became fascinated by the observation that leadership’s ability to drive a consistent vision had huge impacts on strategy and even the business model itself. With her business partner, Catie Romero-Finger, Anjalee developed the Vision Sphere methodology, which later became the foundation concept of Censfera.


Outside of work, Anjalee is an unabashed historical fiction fan, casual philosopher, careers mentor to medical professionals, and devoted mother to her daughter.











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