The notion of the thought leader is not necessarily new, but the term does continue to receive a great deal of attention in these early decades of the 21st century.

A thought leader is sometimes self-identified or possibly recognized by their industry as an individual with their finger on the pulse of change. In that regard, why are thought leaders important to recognize in healthcare, nursing, medicine, and related fields?

Thought Leadership: A Vision for the Future

Thought leaders in healthcare — or any other industry, for that matter — are keenly intelligent, forward-thinking individuals who see the realities of the current state of affairs in their area of influence and strive to foment change. Thought leaders come in many forms and personalities, yet the common denominator is the ability to visualize, create, or inspire new solutions to vexing problems that others may not have the foresight, creativity, or expertise to see.

In the healthcare space, we could likely agree that some of the most dangerous words an individual can utter might be, “But that’s the way we’ve always done it.” At a time when healthcare here in the United States continues to be a source of ire, consternation, exponentially increasing spending, partisan bickering, and less than stellar outcomes, thought leaders may be the key to evaluating and restructuring most any aspect of patient care and healthcare delivery that is crying out for radical change.

Who Are Thought Leaders, Anyway?

A healthcare-related thought leader can bring about great evolutionary change when their wisdom is heeded. Such individuals may be academicians, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, researchers, or industry experts with experience, knowledge, and skill to share.

A thought leader might choose to share their ideas via a blog, a podcast, online video platforms, speaking engagements, online courses, and a variety of other channels or avenues. Thought leaders often publish books as a means to influence a particular industry or sector, and those books can become seminal works that hold sway throughout the years.

Why Should We Listen?

At a time in history when healthcare continues to be a rancorous source of complaint and frustration, our collective need for thought leadership has never been greater.

Among industrialized nations, the United States spends more than most and enjoys far worse outcomes. And with healthcare taxing our gross domestic product and consumer costs skyrocketing as trust in the system wanes, creativity is called for. Meanwhile, with millions of Americans living without health insurance of any kind, creativity is needed to turn our current circumstance around. Enter the thought leader.

Thought leaders may not always be the ones who will operationalize an idea or concept, yet they can indeed inspire others to do so. A thought leader may introduce new potential strategies that others test in the field, or perhaps put forth a theory that allows colleagues to create the path to fulfilling that particular notion. Thought leaders may solely be thinkers, or they may also be doers who have the means and power to take their ideas into the realm of the practical.

It behooves us to seek new paths to novel solutions, and healthcare thought leaders are one such vehicle to get us to our next destination. May each succeeding generation evolve its own thought leaders willing to tackle the jigsaw puzzle of healthcare, and may we be open-minded enough to sit back, notice, listen, and then take inspired action initiated by courageous thought leaders willing to take a risk and share their creative solutions with the world.