"Little boys and girls in ancient Athens grew up wanting to be philosophers. In Renaissance Florence, they dreamed of becoming Humanists. But now a new phrase and a new intellectual paragon has emerged to command our admiration: "Thought Leader."
Columnist David Brooks said a thought leader is "sort of a high-flying, good-doing, yacht-to-yacht concept peddler." They are the go-to guys and gals who get invitations to speak to prestigious groups, participate in deep think-tank discussions and author widely shared op-eds in major newspapers.
The thought leader, Brooks says, "doesn't have students, but does have clients."
Despite the sardonic commentary by Brooks, thought leaders aren't all peppy cheerleaders for a cause they are paid to embrace. Many thought leaders are, well, thought leaders in their field. They can be recognized experts or just average people with meritorious ideas.