Being a guru is like being good-looking

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am a pretty good-looking guy!

How obnoxious does that sound?

Well, how about this? I am a leadership guru (or a coaching guru, a website guru, a pie-baking guru…you get the idea). Not much difference, I say!

I think anyone who refers to themselves as a guru/expert/the best at something sounds off-putting at best, insecure at worst. Yet I hear so many folks referring to themselves as an expert or the best at what they do. If I am to believe you are the best, it better be at something extremely niche.

For example, let’s say someone announces that they are a leadership guru. Compared to whom? Are they a better leader than Steve Jobs? Ted Leonsis? Vince Lombardi? If they have the audacity to refer to themselves as an expert, or the best there is, I sure hope they have a narrow focus.

Here’s another example. If you say you’re a real estate expert, no one will believe you (and you will sound silly). However, if you are the expert on a particular neighborhood, that is within the realm of plausibility. And if it’s true, you likely have many happy clients who will support this claim. Having it come from them changes the context entirely.

If someone else says you’re good-looking, it’s a compliment and you should take it. The same applies to being a guru or an expert. If other people refer to you as an expert, then you probably are – at least to them, within their realm of experience. So let them say it. In fact, showcase their praise of you by providing a testimonial section on your website or creating a YouTube channel.

The more others refer to you as an expert or the best, the more credibility you’ll have and the easier it will be to get the opportunity to demonstrate just how good you are. But no matter how much of an expert you consider yourself, don’t think it is ever okay to say so yourself. It seems like the only people who refer to themselves as a guru are the ones who can’t find anyone to say it for them.

Do you know anyone who is a “guru” or “expert”? According to whom?



  1. by Borzou on July 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” – Margaret Thatcher

  2. by Derek on July 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Nice- thanks for comparing me to Margaret Thatcher! 😉

  3. by Debbie Weil on July 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Spot on!!

  4. by Derek on July 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks Debbie!

  5. by Ingar Grev on July 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Derek, you are SO good looking!

  6. by Derek Coburn on July 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Why thank you, Ingar! Can I use this as a testimonial? 😉

  7. by Jonathan Cogley on July 10, 2012 at 3:06 am

    I think it is a little like leadership. I often encounter people who want to be leaders and yearn for a title on their teams so they can “lead” but leadership either is or isn’t. It needs to be assumed and given by the team in recognition of the capability … the title has little real meaning or power.

  8. by Derek on July 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks Jonathan! I agree. Only the people being led can say whether or not they have a great leader.

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