Is there a word for a person whose work is primarily cognitive, not pragmatic, and who builds his career/reputation this way?

It doesn't need to have a negative connotation. Here is an example person: extremely popular on twitter, often invited to speak (paid), verbose / wax poetic, very conceptual, very popular external to organization but not understood locally, focuses work externally but does not have significant local work.

  • Your question is confusing. It is not clear what you mean by "local" and "external." But you may want Pop scientist or pop philosopher or pop intellectual. – GoldenGremlin Jan 20 '16 at 17:59
  • How is thinking not pragmatic?? – Hot Licks Jan 20 '16 at 21:14

I believe you are looking for intellectual. It describes a person who functions mostly in the realm of the intellect (cognition) and carries an implication of being not pragmatic.

  • Hahahahaha! Good one, DJ! But, did you mean to write, "...an implication of not being pragmatic"? :-) +1 – Mark Hubbard Jan 20 '16 at 20:19
  • @MarkHubbard Works either way round for me. – DJClayworth Jan 20 '16 at 20:23

In my experience, "thoughtleader" tends to be used to describe such a person. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_leader

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