“There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.”
— Marie Antoinette
I deal with a lot of Thought Leaders, would-be Thought Leaders, Authorities, and would-be Authorities. One thing that many of them — especially the up-and-comers — need to be reminded of is that before you can be a Thought Leader, you have to be a thought follower.
All of the work of a modern Thought Leader is built upon the work of previous Thought Leaders. Your unique modern twist or additional information is only 1% to 5% of the entire body of knowledge in the subject area.
A “back to basics” approach can be excellent when your subject is around. You can point to the originators or early masters of the subject, quote them, and give your opinions of their statements.
It’s a critical demonstration of your expertise when you can discuss the history of a concept, the first people to implement it, and how it has been modified or refined over the years. This is particularly true in an era when most people think that almost nothing useful was invented before the Internet came along.
Don’t be afraid to teach the basics and what has come before. And if you’re worried about your followers swimming upstream and looking up the people you reference — the best followers will always do that. If you’re particularly concerned about that, make more references to dead Thought Leaders. They typically won’t have dissenting opinions, won’t ask for money, etc.