Alan Hosking: Developing Tomorrow’s Astute, Compassionate, and Innovative Leaders
Alan Hosking
Alan Hosking

Today’s talent landscape is more competitive than ever. Thus, attracting and retaining top performers requires more than competitive salaries and benefits. That is why thought leadership is emerging as a transformational essential for Human Resource (HR) departments across the globe.

While self-promotion and visibility are often associated with success, true thought leadership goes beyond that. According to one of the most influential thought leaders to watch in 2024Alan Hosking, thought leadership is not about focusing on self; rather, its only focus is on helping and guiding others to become the best versions of themselves.

I don’t see thought leadership being about creating a focus on yourself but about a focus on others—using one’s knowledge, expertise and experience to offer guidance, direction, growth and leadership to others,” says Alan, emphasizing a crucial distinction in the world of thought leadership.

Passionately People Focused

Alan’s three fields of expertise are language, people and Education, Training and Development (ETD). These qualities led him to become the Editor and the Publisher of HR Future Magazine (published by Osgard Media), a global human resource magazine committed to helping HR Professionals prepare their companies for the future of work. Because of his background in education and training, Alan says he has a passion for developing people, especially leaders, so he conducts various training programmes for companies and universities.

Speaking about his inspirations behind venturing into thought leadership, Alan says there was no deliberate attempt to become a thought leader. “Thought leadership is an outcome, not a goal, and not something you confer upon yourself. It’s a title others confer on you should they recognise and respect your expertise.”

His passion for developing leaders motivated him to launch HR Future magazine in 2001, long before anyone thought or talked about the future. Today, everyone is an expert on the future!

Seriously, though, my goal is to develop astute, authentic, compassionate, resilient, and innovative leaders who will ultimately make their companies, communities, countries, and the world a better place for themselves and others through the magazine and the training programmes I conduct.”

A Caring and Compassionate Transition

Sharing a trend which he finds intriguing, Alan states that the concept of leadership is evolving from a military model, which was the legacy of the Second World War, to a more caring, demilitarised model of leadership. While this demilitarising started some years ago, the global pandemic accelerated its process. The command and control model of leadership is now being replaced by a caring and compassionate model of leadership, which many militaristic leaders are battling to embrace.

Staying updated is the most fundamental demand of thought leadership. Alan has made it a part of his routine. He interacts with thought leaders around the globe on an ongoing basis and, because of the magazine, has a “content machine” that continually feeds him new information and insights from academics, thought leaders and experts around the globe. “I also engage in regular conversations with such people.”

Leading by Example

The global human resource landscape might be constantly evolving. Yet thought leaders are always expected to ensure they remain original and authentic. According to Alan, the authenticity and originality of one’s insights are an extension of one’s own authenticity and unique worldview.

Because we are generally socialised to be like somebody else to attain success and fulfilment, I point out to leaders that they make a bad “somebody else” and seek to inspire them to live out their own uniqueness while undertaking frequent reality checks.” He then tries his very best to practise what he preaches.

Ethics as the Only Backbone

Highlighting a challenge he successfully encountered, Alan says he has experienced situations where attempts have been made to influence him to make unethical decisions and act unethically so that a certain party could benefit financially while offering Alan a financial benefit for assisting them. Because he learned strong ethics from his parents at a very young age – “Which is where we all should learn our ethics – it’s a no-brainer to decline such offers.” As the saying goes, ethics is about doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

Collaboration often fuels innovation. When asked how he collaborates with peers from his and other fields, Alan says, “Management guru, Ken Blanchard, made an astute comment when he said, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” This speaks to the power of collective intelligence, which emerges from collaboration, in which he is a strong believer. When one is secure enough not to want to be seen as the smartest person in the room, one is open to embracing the expertise and insights of others to pool that collective intelligence (collaborate) to create magic.

Insight-based Learning

Thought leaders often drive change. Describing an instance where his ideas or insights directly led to a positive change or transformation, Alan cites, “My point of departure in training is that information doesn’t change behaviour (smokers know that smoking causes cancer, but that information doesn’t stop them smoking).”

What does change behaviour is insight. When someone sees something they have never seen before or in a way that they’ve never seen before, they make all the changes in themselves that they need to make. Therefore, Alan promotes a form of learning he calls insight-based learning, which focuses on imparting insight rather than merely imparting knowledge to bring about behavioural change in his training programmes. Training programmes’ biggest flaws are that they don’t result in behavioural change. “I, therefore, emphasise to delegates that I don’t want them to say at the end of their training, “I now know.” I would rather them say, “I now see.” Delegates who participate in my training programmes provide feedback on how they have changed their behaviour as a result of insights they have acquired. It’s therefore both inspiring and humbling to have touched them so that they, in turn, touch and change others whom I will never be able to reach.”

Life’s Equilibrium

Balancing between a strong personal brand and humility can be challenging. When asked how he achieves the equilibrium, Alan says it all comes back to one’s authenticity. If you are being who you really are, instead of feeling the need to play different roles because of your insecurities, you do not need to promote yourself as something or someone you’re not. “One of the things I do to demonstrate my vulnerability/authenticity when I conduct training programmes is, at the start of the programme, show a picture of my family. When pointing out my wife, I tell delegates that if I were to do it all over again, I would do it with her – in a heartbeat (and I mean it!). This profoundly affects delegates and helps them relate to me as a human being – a husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather – rather than just a facilitator.”

It very quickly helps to create a high-quality relationship with delegates, which is critically important, as the level of influence one has in anybody’s life is determined by the quality of the relationship one has with them. Also, when one is comfortable in one’s own skin, one does not need to prove oneselfBy instead acknowledging and recognizing others, one, in fact, enhances one’s own brand without having to resort to boasting or self-promotion.

Digitally Social

Social media and digital platforms play a significant role in thought leadership today. Alan says that as a magazine, they use three platforms to leverage these tools effectively while maintaining credibility.

Their social media handles are:

We post appropriate content on these platforms.”

Alan’s personal LinkedIn profile is:

We use our social media and digital platforms to distribute and promote high-quality content that enhances our magazine and our credibility.”

Being Distinctively Resolute 

The term “thought leader” can be subjective. This is where one’s unique perspectives make all the difference. Alan, too, agrees that there is indeed a responsibility that comes with being a thought leader – a responsibility to lead by example by walking the talk. That’s why authenticity – being who you really are – is so important, as that is what determines and enhances one’s credibilityOne is either ethical or unethical. There is no “in-between”, and that choice to be ethical or unethical is made a long time ago. “The fact of the matter is, when you set out deceive others, the first person you deceive is yourself, and that’s where you lost touch with reality.”

It’s not about actively trying to be a thought leader as an end in itself but more about using your expertise and experience to help others become who they should be. As previously mentioned, that makes thought leadership a by-product rather than a goal in itself.

The Choice is Yours

For aspiring thought leaders looking to establish themselves as influential voices in their respective fields, Alan advises, “Again, as already mentioned, I would encourage them not to see thought leadership as a goal but an outcome as a result of a combination of their passion, expertise and experience.” He would, therefore, counsel an individual not to focus on being a thought leader but rather to follow their passion and learn as much as they can in their field. When they have acquired sound knowledge, insights, expertise and experience that others don’t have (an expert knows things others don’t know), they become recognised and respected as thought leaders over time. Being recognised as a thought leader is therefore a privilege, not a right – arrogance has no place in a genuine thought leader.

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