What’s the difference between a know-it-all and a thought leader? The connotation. As children, every one of us knew a kid whose sense of self-importance and superior intellect was only surpassed by their inability to realize that the rolling eyes and the groans of their peers whenever they spoke was not an outward display of admiration and love but a collective cry of “Shut the hell up already!”. They are blinded by their own arrogance, clothed in a suit of pomposity and an ego so inflated that the Michelin Man looks skinny.
During a colleague of mine’s first year of college, a fellow student in a sociology class fit this description as if it were an über-tailored dress with dimensions calculated with Stephen Hawking-like mathematical precision. No matter what the discussion, no matter what the topic, she ALWAYS had something to say about it. He and a buddy of his, who was also in the class, gave her a nickname: Britannica. Yes, they named her after the line of encyclopedias because, well, she knew everything and was, at least to her, the go-to source for all knowledge. No matter the topic, she ALWAYS had either an experience with it or knowledge of it. As soon as she began one of her frequent monologues, there was a palpable annoyance in the room— hell, even the instructor betrayed her true feelings though she tried her damndest to conceal them.
I know a thing or two about a thing or two, but there is something to be said about modesty and letting your successes speak for you and your intellectual prowess. I know many smart people, and I also know many people who don’t think it necessary to toot their own proverbial horn. They think as I do, that results speak louder than grandstanding or proclaiming yourself an expert. (NEWSFLASH: There is no such thing as an “expert.” No has ever, nor will anyone ever, know everything about everything, much less one particular item.) Thought leaders are as useful as a pair of sunglasses in Point Barrow, Alaska on December 21st. They are egotistical pukes whose sense of importance is nauseating to those of us who know better. Wanna impress me? Show me what you can do; don’t tell me what you can do.
It’s been said that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. Bull. That’s an insult to many fine and hard-working teachers. I’d like to amend that last independent clause with “Those who can’t, proclaim they can better than anyone else and grow up to be thought leaders.”