11 Minute Read

The Ultimate Subjective Thought Leader List

So, thought leader is a pretty weird thing to call someone, as many have pointed out. Giving someone the permission to control your thoughts doesn’t sound like something anyone would willingly sign up for… yet, we laud these people, vendors and speakers come to Red Branch hoping to turn into a thought leader and we build lists and guides to who to approach, how to approach them and more.

Thought leaders are prevalent in our industry and many worked hard to get there. I’ve been thinking about who my real thought leaders are. People who I’ve admired from the very beginning of my career in the HR and Recruitment Technology space, people who have lasted and created a body of work that continually speaks to me and other people too, I’m sure.

I’m not sure why I feel compelled to write this list. I share their blog posts consistently and have certainly been open in my admiration of them on social media. Placement on a list on my little blog isn’t going to give them some high they haven’t already experienced from speaking to packed rooms, being quoted in magazines or having their byline on a book/event/training/etc. that is their own.

Nonetheless, it’s important to me to recognize the people whose blog posts I never miss, whose sessions I always try to attend and those who inspired me and taught me about how to get inside the mind of an HR professional or recruiter or just a great damn manager.

Ready? Here goes:

Robin Schooling (@RobinSchooling):

Rarely do I miss a post by this powerhouse practitioner. Her no-nonsense, funny and completely pragmatic posts do my soul good. Instead of complaining about stuff, she offers practical solutions, instead of poking fun at behind-the-times practitioners, she offers clear steps on how to get ahead (while still working a day job!) Robin’s sense of humor comes through in every post and both pays homage to and takes down certain sacred cows. As someone who works with a lot of vendors in the space, she also offers smart advice to those looking to sell into HR, telling us that which should be obvious, without being outright mean.

She knows that despite the bacchanal glory of HR Tech, there are still HR pros who still have to plan picnics and sort candidates via Excel spreadsheet. She gets that while “reinvention” and “innovation” and “revolution” are good, necessary and coming; there is also work to be done, day in and day out and not everything can be broken down before getting built back up.

Robin’s writing has taught me to be braver in leadership and that while not every idea is a good one, there is a whole lot more common sense in “in-the-trenches” HR than not.
Best Recent Post: HRTechConf: Real World Edition


Tim Sackett (@TimSackett):

Tim Sackett is an OG Fistful of Talent alum and with good reason. His in-your-face posts about everything from diversity to new tech are simultaneously truthful and easy to swallow. In a way that only nice Midwesterners understand, Tim pulls apart complex subjects with the ease and manages to get readers (and vendors) to see his point of view, even if you don’t end up agreeing with him.

He’s experienced quite a bit in his career, from the complexities of a family business to running a lean staffing agency to putting analytics in place. He also consults with companies on their processes, giving him tons of fodder and learning opportunities.

Sackett is also one of those rare bloggers that reads the press releases and vendor reports, which as someone who helps put them together on the marketing side, is much appreciated 🙂
Best Recent Post: If You’re Going to Do It, Do It Now


Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann):

Laurie has been writing as long as I’ve been reading content about HR. In all that time, her voice has never been anything less than authentic and focused. Her original online moniker PunkRockHR showed just how disruptive her voice would be in the space, followed by the birth of her alter-ego The Cynical Girl, who was…cynical. But not really, though, she gives way more credit to HR pros than many bloggers of her stature.

Where once it was cool to bag on the HR pros and instead laud recruiters who were oh-so-ahead-of-the-curve, Laurie decided instead to talk about the real issues these people faced and how hard it can be to be the manager stuck between executive stakeholders and a group of employees that aren’t engaged, who all want raises and who have genuine performance issues…or how hard it can be to have to fire any of those people.

Being an HR Pro isn’t for the weak or the boring, as so many “innovative” magazine articles would have us believe. While she doesn’t always have answers, Laurie is almost always the first one to ask the important questions.
Best Recent Post: Crapplicant


Steve Boese (@SteveBoese):

I remember meeting Steve for the first time. We both flew in to help a company build out a community. I remember then realizing what a deep thinker he was and I started reading him a whole lot more after that. Every time I do (pretty much weekly) I find myself viewing HR Technology in a whole different way.

His focus is pretty high level, but I always read through to the end. It takes a gifted writer to take an anecdote, pull it through to HR and then bring it home to an inspiring and “next-step” focused conclusion. His voice is the absolute best when it’s undiluted with the things that litter other writers’ posts (like click to tweets, CTAs and sales talk). The truth is Steve doesn’t need any of those things. He is absolutely clear around what he believes and what he (and we) should be watching.
Best Recent Post: Deconstructed Protocols


China Gorman (@ChinaGorman):

I read every Data Point Tuesday like it’s my job. Because it is. You see China Gorman makes the esoteric seem simple, the huge problem seem like simple issues to be solved. Where I might see a garbled table of data, she sees a clear pattern that illuminates one piece of the broader BUSINESS picture. Yeah, business, not HR. China uses trend reports, findings and data dumps like a marathoner uses granola. I think, I’ve never actually run a marathon. But granola seems like the right choice.
Best Recent Post: Get To Know Me: Here Comes Gen Z


Joel Peterson (@joelyoh):

If I had to pick which of my friends or colleagues would write a book about finding joy in work (and life) it would be Joel, but that’s not why I count him as an influencer. I count him as an influencer because he is constantly tinkering with social media and trying new and interesting things. Not to sell stuff or increase any metric that I’m aware of, but because that’s genuinely part of his personality. He wants to experiment and see what works, and what doesn’t. And even if something doesn’t work? He still might do it because it brings him joy or he appreciates the experience. This has made him a great influence on my way of thinking.
Best Recent Post: ON IBM: HR and the Growing Multigenerational Workforce


Of course, I have many others. I always read what’s going on with Crystal Miller and George LaRoqcue is on my “check-in” list. Heather Bussing is brilliant (always) and John Sumser’s been on my list of must-reads since time immemorial. If I were to make this list as long as all the bloggers I read regularly (rather than religiously) it’d be a lot longer. But these are the people who actually, truthfully LEAD my THOUGHTS.

What about you?