Luminary Definition

We spent a lot of time thinking about the best word to describe someone who encompasses the pinnacle of both, Influence and Thought Leadership.

We thought deeply about words like:

  • Authority
  • Celebrity
  • Personality
  • Renowned
  • Guru
  • Luminary

We looked at words that surround these words. We looked at the top influencers and thought leaders and at the words they and others used to describe them. We surveyed people inside and outside our organization. We got feedback and performed focus groups.

Over time, we narrowed down to two finalists, Authority and Luminary.

Define Authority:

The legitimate power of a person or group over other people. – Source: Wikipedia

The power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct or control someone or something – Source: Webster

The confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people – Source: Webster

Someone who is a top level influencer and thought leader does contain these attributes. They know a lot about something, they’re respected, they can influence opinions and movements, and yes, they have power over people.

Define Luminary:

A person who enlightens or influences others – Source: Collins

A person of prominence or brilliant achievement

A person who has attained eminence in his or her field or is an inspiration to others: – Source:

An expert in a particular subject or activity. – Source: Collins

The primary difference we saw between an Authority and Luminary is that an authority has power over people, whereas, a luminary enlightens and lifts people.

Both are great and valuable attributes to a top level influencer and thought leader, but we, as an organization, needed to feel confident that we could wholeheartedly stand behind the word.

Lets look at the Antonyms for these two words.

Antonym of Authority:

amateur, inexpert, nonexpert – Source: Webster

helplessness, powerlessness, amateur – Source: Powerthesaurus

Antonym of Luminary:

Nobody, noncelebrity – Source: Webster

Nobody, mediocrity, loser – Powerthesaurus

The antonyms tell us that the opposite of an Authority is an nonexpert, whereas, the opposite of a Luminary is a nobody.

We felt that an Authority, although greatly relevant, is driven more by power over others versus Luminary which is driven by being the bright light others can follow.

2 major authority figures may clash and compete for who has more authority or power, whereas, a luminary would be looking to collaborate and lift each other up.

It’s a lot like light, when you combine two lights, the light is brighter. If two luminaries team up, their impact is multiplied.


Collaboration, lifting up, and being a light for change, inspiring and attracting feels more aligned with the core values of our organization, thus we chose to identify our leaders as luminaries.

So what is a luminary in regards to the Association of Influencers & Thought Leaders?

A luminary is someone who is the pinnacle of influence and thought leadership. Someone who has large communities that listen to their perspective that’s based on a deep level of expertise.

Everyone is a luminary at some level, here at the AIT, each of us strive to be the brightest light in our field, while lifting others, so the light that drives change can become brighter and more impactful.

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