I'd define thought leadership, or the ideas itself possessing the following criteria:-
a) Ubiquitous applicability. From a Kantian principle, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will, that it should become a universal law." Your ideas can be applied in many scenarios, business, relationship etc. If it’s too narrow, requiring highly specialized and perfect conditions like -> “You must require top down and management approach to succeed”, then yes - It’s a joke.
b) Paradigm Shifting
It’s truly a viewpoint that is better/faster/ possessing WoW; from Tom Peters. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Kinda like love at first sight. A diary used to be private, but now we have blogs. Corporate strategies used to be private, but now it’s in Annual Reports...
c) Being able to relay the “obvious” in a non-obvious way – Reframe-ReEvaluate-Synthesize-Relate.
Being able to “relate” is amazing. We tend to use big words like “Configuration Management”, “Value Chain” and “Business Process Reengineering” but seriously, what’s in it for the audience? How can you revolutionize your ideas into a “meme” -> a mental virus.
d) MECE – Mutually Exclusive, Completely Exhaustive (Mckinsey)
Very simple concept, yet exhaustingly difficult to exercise. Too many ideas garbled into a contradictory and even dissonant in voicing, it’s MESSY instead of MECE. Ram Charan was talking about organizational focus, but I find the words he used hit me right in the nuts -> Laser Sharp Focus.
e) It defines your 'brand'
Folks know that it's "you/your co." Walk the talk.
f) It’s simple...
The names are dropped on purpose; these gentlemen & ideas are game changers, true thought leaders. And humbly, you can’t do a Napolean and label yourself as one; it comes resoundingly from industry recognition.