Anyone Who Says “I’m a Guru” is No True Guru

HBO’s Game of Thrones is great storytelling because it works on many levels. Beyond its entertainment value, it is a collection of case studies on why leaders earn or lose loyalty.

The Season Three marathon leading up to last night’s premiere provided one such lesson. After his uncle Tyrion shows him disrespect, Joffrey shouts “I am the king!” to which his grandfather Tywin reminds him: “Any man who says ‘I am king’ is no true king.”

AnyManWhoSaysThis simple reminder that loyalty and respect must be earned by actions rather than demanded has application across everything we do as communicators.

Companies proclaim themselves the “worldwide leader” on their web page and press release boilerplates, but that doesn’t mean they are. They must have thought leadership, innovation and sales to back it up. Reporters aren’t swayed by chest thumping or credentials, they want tangible examples of why someone or something is newsworthy. Customers are influenced by how our message or product benefits them, not how great we think we are.

Agencies and consultants often try to convince clients to trust their better judgement because they’re “the experts.” According to AdAge, there Are 181,000 social media “gurus,” “ninjas,” “masters,” and “mavens” on Twitter. In the country of self-proclaimed greatest, the one who actually demonstrates it is king.

When pitching new business, convincing clients or the C-suite on a strategy, you must have a “heart of a teacher” and explain the reasoning behind your approach. Simon Sinek points out in his book “Start With Why“: “It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it.” The key to being influential is constantly demonstrating you add value and have the key insights others will rely on.

As a manager, a boss will drive employees whereas a leader will coach. Prussian officer Frederick Stueben trained Washington’s army during the American Revolution, noting that with European soldiers it was enough to say “‘Do this,’ and he does it,” but to American soldiers he was “obliged to say, ‘This is the reason why you ought to do that,’ and then he does it.” You will be far more effective as a team leader if you pull people along rather than push.

Bottom Line

Proclaiming yourself with a title is not enough. You cannot simply say you’re great at something, you must show it everyday and in everything you do.

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