A thought leader is a futurist or person who is recognized for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights. The term was coined in 1994, by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the magazine, Strategy & Business. The term was used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had contributed new thoughts to business.
Among the first “thought leaders,” were British management thinker, Charles Handy, who advanced the idea of a “portfolio worker” and the “Shamrock Organization”, Stanford economist Paul Romer, Mitsubishi president, Minoru Makihara, and University of Michigan strategist, C.K. Prahalad, author of a number of well known works in corporate strategy including “The Core Competence of the Corporation” (Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1990); and his co-author, Gary Hamel, a professor at the London Business School. And at the turn of the millennium Chris Harris in his trend leading insight book Hyperinnovation.
The first treatise to begin the address a rapidly interconnecting, growing, technologically innovative world. Since that time, the term has spread from business to other disciplines and has come to mean someone who enlivens old processes with new ideas. As a result, there are thought leaders in the sciences, humanities and even in government. (Wikipedia)