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To Lead Thoughts – Get Disruptive!


Mahesh Baxi has spent over 20 years in the global IT services industry. He is currently an entrepreneur, consultant, and author who previously worked as CEO of Compassites Software. Before that, he was Managing Director of global IT services firm, ThoughtWorks. Mahesh selected Tweet #1 from our award-winning book, #Thought Leadership Tweet. Here he explains why:

Tweet #1 is my favorite because it is very thought provoking, intriguing and illustrates how often these terms are commonly mistaken for one another. Within the companies and teams I have led, I have always stressed that aspect of thought leadership associated with inspiring disruptive innovation. From my perspective, I’ve always regarded trusted advisors and subject matter experts as more like knowledge banks than innovators.

Mahesh Baxi

Mahesh Baxi

When I think of thought leaders or thought leadership I prefer to apply those terms to people rather to companies as a whole. The primary reason being that I believe it is people who set the course for being innovative or inspiring. Consider, for example, Steve Jobs from Apple, Bill Gates from Microsoft, and John F. Kennedy the 35th president of the United States of America. What was common to these thought leaders was that they all were very innovative in their thinking. They each inspired others, in their own way, to achieve goals that most people thought were impossible. In essence, thought leadership is something which inspires innovation, be it disruptive or sustaining.

Beyond Direct Marketing Efforts

Not everyone is as visionary as Steve Jobs or JFK, of course, but I believe any passionate individual can introduce disruption over a period of time through innovation. From an organization’s point of view, you know that thought leadership is working for you when there are many inbound sales calls, with people wanting to buy your products or services that go above and beyond  your direct marketing efforts.

Here are what people within the organizations I have worked have done to establish thought leadership in the market place:

  1. Foster a culture where innovation (or innovative approaches) are encouraged and appreciated, failures are embraced and are not punished.  This, of course, is easier said than done and requires an organization-wide eco system that is backed by regular examples and clear communication to help build such a culture.
  2. Encourage people to connect with like-minded people in the industry. To establish thought leadership you need to connect with people to inspire them. This involves reaching out to others in your industry via various modes such as blogs, conferences, books etc.
  3. Don’t just talk about thought leadership – demonstrate it! Create examples and communicate through the right channels. If you are a services company, you could take very innovative approach to solving a client or prospect’s business problem, implement that approach and show results. For product companies it means creating products that are highly innovative and address market needs — ones that people can’t find anywhere else.
  4. Last but not least, remember that the journey to thought leadership is centered on the people in your organization. The culture of an organization must value every individual who brings such skill sets to the thought leadership mix.

For me, thought leadership is all about innovation and showing results through inspiring everyone around you. If positive results cannot be demonstrated over time, it cannot be considered thought leadership — because no one is following you.

Never forget that the journey to thought leadership for an individual (or an organization) is a life long journey, with many milestones on the road to success.


Mahesh Baxi spent close to 12 years in San Jose, California working for various startups to mid-size companies before moving back to India, where he now lives. His first book “Tips From The Trenches” was published in the US and his latest book “The New Age Leadership” will be launched in December 2013 by India’s leading publisher, Jaico. You can find more about Mahesh at

Note from Liz: I was introduced to Mahesh through a mutual friend via Skype. Mahesh was writing his first book at the time and wanted some insights about how to make it as compelling as possible. We chatted, found that we had many things in common and maintained the connection over a couple of years. I was delighted to finally meet Mahesh last April when I visited Pune, India for the first time. Still at Compassites at that point, Mahesh graciously invited me to speak to his team about developing individual thought leadership. You can find a picture from that event here

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If you have a favorite tweet from our book that you would like to comment on for this series, please write to us at, putting “Guest Post” in the subject line. The only stipulations are:

  1. Your post focuses on how that prompt has informed your thinking and impacted your business or organization (with specific examples preferred).

  2. You confine your wisdom to 550-650 words.

  3. You stick to the deadline (typically one month ahead).

  4. You social share the heck out of it too!

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