Partisanship is epitomized by the belief that only “my party” knows how to govern, all adherents of other parties are not merely misguided, but malicious.

Can a true thought leader be partisan? The answer comes easily for me: absolutely not! A true thought leader puts expertise above politics, uses evidence, data, reason, and logic to develop public policies that improve the lives of all people. To be clear, evidence matters. But evidence matters more in thought leadership than it does in politics for two reasons.

First, public policy is complex. To think seriously about how to tackle complex problems requires focus and deliberation. Partisanship deters both. When you are only looking for evidence to support what you already believe, there is no need to focus or deliberate. In fact, partisanship actually prevents deliberation as it allows the adherent to avoid facts and alternatives that disrupt previously held beliefs.

Second, thought leaders have a responsibility not merely to advocate for themselves, but to advocate for the public at large. This is why physicians have an ethical obligation to place the health of their patients above their own economic self-interests. Physicians know that they may be called upon to provide care in situations where the physician’s knowledge and expertise will benefit all patients, not just those who are insured or affluent enough to pay for it.

It Seems the Notion of Responsibility is Dying

When a thought leader knows a certain policy will benefit all citizens, no matter their affiliation or socioeconomic status, the thought leader has a responsibility to advocate for that policy. And, in these times, responsibility seems to be a four-letter word.

But responsible thought leadership does not just benefit the public, it benefits the thinker as well. Thought leadership that adheres to evidence and reason rather than ideology or preconceived notions is inherently rewarding because it leads to a more complete understanding of the issue at hand. And this knowledge has great value for those who seek an expert opinion in the future.

Political thought leadership, on the other hand, requires that thought leaders suppress their most insightful contributions in order to please partisans or interest groups with an agenda that very likely is contrary to the public’s best interests. Once you give up your expertise and knowledge for political purposes, how can anyone trust you?

Unbiased Does Not Equal Apolitical

I am not suggesting that thought leaders abstain from politics. In fact, I encourage them to be involved in policymaking and elections. But we must carefully consider how we can influence public policy and elections without allowing ourselves to become the pawns of partisan organizations whose only goal is to win at all costs.

Recognizing and overcoming our own biases is no simple task. But it is necessary for thought leadership. Otherwise, our efforts are impotent, our knowledge irrelevant.

So, can a true thought leader be partisan? No. But they can still have an opinion about politics and policies that affect their expertise—just not the party line.

If you seek to become a thought leader, please reach out to me today to find out more about my thought leadership incubator program. My team will do much of the heavy lifting to build your thought leadership strategy, tackle SEO issues, and help you rise to the next level.