WORD FROM THE PARTNERS
HOW TO BECOME A MANAGEMENT GURU
by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove
The world of the modern management guru is alluring.
The top thinkers are the rock stars of the business
world. Feted at every turn, their devoted disciples
hang on their every word. MBAs huddle at their feet.
Corporations and publishers shower them with dollar
bills like confetti at a wedding.
Not surprisingly, then, there are guru-wannabes aplenty.
Beneath the stars there exists a nebulous cloud of mini
gurus competing for attention. Consultants, business
school academics, CEOs and the occasional business journalist
wait, poised for their big break. These are the guritos
or baby gurus. Their light is not so bright,
but they live in hope.
Some of the guritos will one day make it into the premier
league. Many more will never achieve the stardom they
seek but will build moderately successful secondary
careers as national, rather than global, speakers and
pundits. The problem is that the guru business is largely
personality driven rather than purely ideas driven.
Sure, you need a good first idea, but beyond that,
a place at the top table requires something more. The
true stars have pizzazz, stage presence and a certain
cultish appeal. Any one who has actually seen Tom Peters
strut his stuff would admit that the man has talent.
Peters is a natural stage performer.
Even the academics who have reached the dizzying heights
of gurudom people like Gary Hamel and Peter Senge
share this ability to entertain as well as inform.
They enthuse audiences with their ideas. The guru aims
for maximun impact. His or her stock in trade are one-liners
and drum-roll statistics. Entertainment and enlightenment
are fused into something approaching an art form. The
good ones make it look almost effortless, but the skills
of the guru are manifold.
What does it take to be a guru? Hard to say. Timing
is important, being in the right place at the right
time with the right idea has got many a guru started.
But to stay at the top they need some other characteristics.
An original turn of mind helps, but in most cases there
is also an indeciperable mix of charisma, academic gravitas
and real world credibility.
They are typically very bright people and know it,
which can manifest itself as arrogance or, alternatively,
as disarming modesty (real or projected). A deep competitive
streak is also par for the course and a genuine fascination
with the activity of business. To become a fully paid
up member of the guru union takes entrepreneurial zeal
and an large appetite for money and influence.
Overall, to be a serious contender for the major league,
it helps to have some of the following:
- The name of a major business school on your resumé
(Harvard is good, so is Stanford. In Europe, INSEAD,
LBS or IMD are popular).
- Some serious academic research under you belt.
- A best selling business book (or two) to your name
- Be associated with a particular concept or area.
Best of all is to actually coin the concept by giving
it popularizing name. (Actual originality is less
important; most new concepts are old ones with a new
- A regular place on the guru speaking circuit, flitting
effortlessly and with very few changes to your speech,
from one major event to another.
- The nerve to charge a ridiculously large fee (plus
excessive expenses) to turn up and give the same talk
youve given hundreds of times before.
- Polished performing skills somewhere between
a stand-up comedian and a university lecturer.
- An animated delivery style - shout a lot and bang
your fist on the lectern.
- The knack of turning complex ideas into punchy one-liners.
From here its just a short hop onto the international
speaking circuit and the huge fees that accompany it.
All this makes the life of the guru seem vaguely comical.
But, gurus wield real power. Their influence extends
from the boardroom to the shopfloor and beyond. Their
views and insights are sought by the CEOs of the biggest
corporations in the world; and many more. Increasingly,
they have the ear of the people that matter.
Some, like Michael Porter, act as consultants and advisers
to national governments. (Porter has carried out economic
studies for India, New Zealand and Canada among others).
New economy guru Esther Dyson advises Michael Dell.
Anthony Robbins, the motivational guru, boasts a colorful
client list which includes members of two royal families,
Andre Agassi and the US Army.
Gurusonline.tv provides the worlds first complete
on-line guru information service. If you want to keep
up to date with whose thinking what and whose wielding
the real power in the business world simply log on.
Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove
Founders of Suntop Media and creators of the Thinkers