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Whether it’s okay to call yourself a thought leader or not has been debated extensively. Some consider the term little more than obnoxious business jargon, while others argue that it’s a valid form of self-promotion.

New research by Instant Offices revealed that six out of every ten people globally who describe themselves as a thought leader on LinkedIn is a man. Of all the profiles analysed, 63% belonged to men compared to 37% of women, with the results leaning heavily towards men across virtually every country.

In all of the countries in the top 10, the ratio of male thought leaders is higher compared to women. In the UK, 62% of men consider themselves thought leaders compared to 38% of women. In the US, a slightly higher percentage (78%) of men describe themselves this way, compared to 22% of women. In South Africa, 67% of men call themselves thought leaders compared to 33% of women.

Instant Offices scraped thousands of LinkedIn profiles to find out more about people who self-describe as ‘thought leaders’ in either their title or bio.

The data also revealed that the men most likely to call themselves a thought leader are named David, Michael or Peter, and for women, it’s Laura, Jessica or Kate.

Google searches for ‘how to become a thought leader’ were up 23% last year, which means more people than ever are interested in becoming one.

Top Ten Countries with the Most ‘Thought Leaders’

Country % of people who self-describe as thought leaders
UK 40%
US 18%
South Africa 8%
Italy 4%
Netherlands 4%
India 4%
Germany 3%
Canada 2%
Australia 1%
France 1%

Comparing countries, the UK ranks head and shoulders above the rest, with a massive 40% of local professionals describing themselves as thought leaders in either their LinkedIn title or bio.

In the US, 18% of people consider themselves thought leaders, while South Africa ranks third with 8% of professionals using the term to describe themselves.

The research shows that across most countries, the group most likely to consider themselves thought leaders are entrepreneurs, followed by those in the marketing, tech and health sectors.

Looking at the top three countries, London, Edinburgh and Birmingham have the highest concentration of thought leaders in the UK. In the US, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco rank high on the list. While in South Africa, people in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are more likely to self-promote as thought leaders.

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