The problem with (Tech) Gurus
In every new movement, there are leaders, and some of them are discrete, some of them are outspoken :
- either internally e.g as CEOs
- or externally e.g as content creators
Among these some define themselves as thought leaders, evangelists, public speaker or Gurus. They either are or feel legitimate to “guide” others into something.
Most of them are harmless, because no one follows them that much.
Some of them are great, because they actually are experts, and they’re actually trying to help others (Nelson Mandela or more recently and closer to the business world Bill Campbell or Ray Dalio)
And some of them are dangerous.
Either because they are trying to mislead you (often to take your money, you’ll find many of those in crypto, dropshipping etc …)
Either because they are trying to make you join a movement that isn’t “good” (dictators and sect gurus for example)
In Tech we’ve seen a lot of thought leaders in the last 25 years, one of the first being Steve Jobs, considered by many to be a genius and a guru. And not everything about him was good, and many in his presence suffered.
Many followed (including toxic leaders of Theranos or WeWork, content creators like Scott Galloway or Gary Vaynerchuk and also leaders of great companies) and with the growth of Youtube and other platforms some wannabe Gurus saw the opportunity to shine without necessarily having to do the work of being an expert. Youtube is full of scams offering worthless elearning courses who promise to make you rich. The only one ending up being rich is the Guru himself (yes, he’s often a man…)
Recently the story of French Tech Guru Oussama Amar blew up, and he was certainly more a content Guru than an actual successful entrepreneur. And it seems it’s ending badly. But that’s not my point.
What’s interesting to me is that at the beginning it can be hard to distinguish a Guru “for Good" from a toxic one.
They both have an incredible ability to convince people to follow their guidance. The difference of course is their intention, or maybe even who they are deep down. Because even when trying to do Good, a crazy person often doesn’t.
Being able to get people to give you vast amounts of money or time or more can be interpreted as genius, whether it does good to these people or not.
As investors, journalists or anyone looking, it’s also hard to call out a scam or refuse to get on the train when everyone sees genius and fights to get in.
And it often takes time to reach the tipping point where more people see the scam than don’t. A lot of us like a good success story and new idol to talk about.
One thing that’s easier I believe, for those who are trying to select the Gurus they want to trust, is to look at the person a bit more, separate from the project and it’s potential or apparent success.
We’re now all used to seing overnight successes disappear as fast as they came.
Is the Guru selfish or overly self centered ?
Does he/she talk more about his/her team than himself ? Do people like working for him/her ?
Does he/she have any actual success ?
Can I check anything he/she says ?
It’s not a perfect rule, but it surely reduces your risk of wasting your time, or brainwashing yourself with nonsense. Or of course losing money or being involved in a legal fight or worse.
If you love People, you usually don’t do too much harm to People or to the place we live in.
And if you love People, it’s usually more about them and less about you.