I was in a meeting several years ago with a person who called himself a “thought leader.” Supposedly, a thought leader is someone who has innovative ideas that offer a new or unusual perspective in a situation. This person may well have fit that description, but I still am not sure I fully understand the concept.
In his new book Growing Agile Leaders, Bob Dale introduced me to the idea of a “thought partner.” This is a concept that I can understand. Although in many ways a thought partner serves as a coach for a person, he or she may also slip into the roles of mentor or consultant from time to time. Dale points out that the thought partner not only provides the optimism, encouragement, and feedback of the coach, but he or she has a certain level of expertise or experience that “offsets blind spots and knowledge gaps.” He suggests that this may also be a prophetic or even mystical role.
Coaches always walk a fine line between coaching and consulting. Last year I listened in on a panel discussion with three experienced coaches where two of them frankly admitted that they had no reservations about crossing the line and becoming a consultant or mentor if the client’s situation required it. I must admit that I have done this with one longtime client but only with his permission and with the understanding that the final decision on the action he will take is his and his alone. He is free to accept, reject, or modify my suggestions or observations. He welcomes the opportunity for a different perspective from time and time, seeing me as a “partner” in his ministry.
In addition, I am fortunate to be involved in a peer coaching relationship in which the other person and I have become real “thought partners.” We not only help each other develop personal, spiritual, and professional goals and hold each other accountable in pursuing them, but we freely share resources and ideas as well. Having a “thought partner” both facilitates and expands the coaching conversation.
Do you have a “thought partner”? Now might be a good time to identify and work with one to move your life and ministry along some new paths.