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You Call Yourself a Guru

Reading: You Call Yourself a Guru

What is a guru?

(in Hinduism and Buddhism) a spiritual teacher, especially one who imparts initiation.
synonyms: teacher, tutor, sage, mentor, leader, master, expert, authority, pundit

What did I find on Twitter?

Go to Twitter and search guru.  You’re going to find it applied to anything from Agile to Marketing to Love. To be clear, I wasn’t originally looking for a guru. I just noticed it in someone’s profile and was curious who else thought they were one.

My Twitter post on the topic resulted in an enjoyable conversation with Gitte Klitgaard ‏@NativeWired, who describes herself as an Agile addict, hippie and a pirate, Rob Myers ‏@agilecoach, who describes himself as helping people craft worthwhile products and enjoy their careers, and Mike Kaufman @mkaufman811, who describes himself as a ScrumMaster, Agile Evangelist, and Dad.

The four of us participating in the conversation kept it civil and I believe we all got value from it.  After our exchange, I would have to say, I’d be quicker to listen to what they had to say than I ever would any of those claiming to be gurus in our space.

Here is a link to part of the conversation.

The question is,

are self-professed gurus in your domain selling, teaching, or actual masters?

I see guru as one of those terms that is grossly overused. If someone said to me something like “Dude, you’re a guru.”  I would be flattered by the comment.  I just think I’m driven, obsessive, and passionate about improving things and engaging people. But a guru?  No.

Thoughts from the community

Do you think the term is overused in the Agile space?  Is it overused in other domains? Do you think you’re a guru and grossly underappreciated?  I want to know what you think.  Add a comment.

Next Are People Really Afraid to Change?

Comments (4)

  1. Robert Sfeir

    Overused, misused, and in my humble opinion especially in Agile. To me a guru is someone who has all the answers. Agile is about discovering the answers, and using past experience to guide us. Someone who professes to be an Agile guru, is also someone who is professing that a hero culture, one where one persons will do everything to save the whole, is OK since in an of itself saying you are a guru says I can solve all your problems.

    That said, we may master a part of the art of Agile, for example XP or Scrum (and no, a ScrumMaster doesn’t automatically make you a Guru or a Master), and can perhaps be Scrum or XP gurus/masters, but to be an Agile Guru requires that you master all parts of the art of Agile… and good luck with that :)

    • Derek Huether

      Robert, I agree with you. Agile is continuously evolving and I don’t know how someone could claim to be an Agile Guru. Not sure when or how we can shift the general population away from believing an MBA is a management guru or a PMP is a project management expert, or a CSM is a master of Scrum. I believe the giving of knowledge is a guru’s oxygen. I think we’re surrounded by false gurus.

  2. Barbara Kryvko

    I agree with Robert. In business in general, not just Agile, the word “guru” means someone who knows everything about whatever it is…but may not be a mentor, teacher, or sage. They may just want to get a bigger paycheck!

    • Derek Huether

      …and Barbara, I agree with you. When someone self-identifies as a guru, I think they WANT something. I don’t know if they want a bigger paycheck or just recognition. If someone I follow claims to be a guru, that lack of humility disqualifies them, in my book. That’s just me. I believe in self confidence but the excessive pride crosses the line to hubris.


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