Social Media

‘Gurus’, ‘ninjas’ and ‘thought leaders’: LinkedIn job titles get more mythical by the day

Nic Hayes /

LinkedIn job titles

LinkedIn HQ in Mountain View, California.

‘Guru’, ‘ninja’, ‘unicorn’, ‘mumpreneur’, ‘Amazon best-seller’, ‘influencer’, ‘thought leader’, ‘life coach’ and ‘change-maker’ are just some of the cliche titles and labels that populate thousands of professional Linkedin profiles. 

And there’s a level of angst and occasionally hostility toward these titles. Why? Because there is a perception they haven’t been earned, are misleading, or lack substance. These titles lack clarity and specificity, leaving people to wonder what they actually mean or involve.

There is an erosion of impact when everyone claims to be a leader or influencer. A little like click-bait content that gets our attention, it doesn’t take long before the shine wears off and we are regretting our decision to engage with the self-anointed guru.  

For example, everyone that has written a book today seems to be an ‘Amazon best-seller’. I found this accolade to be diluted by the sheer amount of people claiming to be one. It wasn’t until I raised it in a discussion that I realised it was an issue for others too. So much so, that Mike Winnet, a communications provocateur in the UK, put together a video on how you can gain an ‘Amazon Best Seller’ acknowledgement without any effort or even writing a book. Granted, his was an exercise in self-promotion and satire, but it did highlight the absurd lengths people go to, in order to get this manufactured label of ‘best-seller’.

Marketing specialist Ali Balch has asked: “When did combining a random word with -preneur become a thing? … What is this madness and how do we make it stop?”

The definition of ‘entrepreneur’, according to dictionary.com, is “a person who organises and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk”.

The label and title ‘mumpreneur’, and for that matter, any play on the word entrepreneur, such as ‘teenpreneur’, ‘youpreneur’, ‘philanthropreneur’ and many more, seek to add creativity and specificity to the world of small business.

But in my view, prefacing the word entrepreneur with ‘mum’ or ‘teen’ is just insulting to the woman or young person that is doing the hard yards. There should be less silos if we are creating a business world that is diversified and equal. You are either an entrepreneur or you are not. Your sex, age, religion, marital status, culture or race has nothing to do if you are an entrepreneur.

The classic ‘thought leader’ label is one that irks many, as this self-proclaimed title is one that can only be bestowed by others. There are, in fact, very few thought leaders by definition, but there seems to be many claiming the title. Being an authority in the field needs to be acknowledged by others in that field, not claimed flippantly in a bio.

The term ‘thought leader’ as defined by dictionary.com as “a person or organisation that is a recognised authority in a particular field and whose innovative ideas influence and guide others”.

The amount of life coaches, business coaches and anything with ‘coach’ in the title is another red flag for consumers, and many have become cynical and untrusting of this title. There are many fantastic practitioners in the coaching space, but they are swamped by the many pretenders claiming this title, such as the 21-year-old life coaches, failed business owners, and inexperienced operators.

In a world of self-proclaimed leadership, expertise and influence, how are we to know who the real experts, leaders and authorities are? Who is vetting these people? Where is the quality control?

The reality is, there is no vetting process or quality control, it is totally unregulated.

And if you are a leader, expert or influencer, how do you prove your credibility to others so they look beyond the title to what you know and can do?

The real experts are getting on with business. Their cup is overflowing with work and it is the responsibility of those that are looking to employ the people with such titles to do their homework.

Don’t get hoodwinked, conned or misled with the titles, but rather, look heavily into referrals, consult trusted resources and do your research on any expert you are engaging.

Too often the fake experts hide behind the thin veil of a title, where the real experts stand tall by their actions and results.

NOW READ: Contrepreneur: Amazon published a book filled with blank pages and told customers it was a #1 best-seller

NOW READ: The 10 most unemployable job titles on LinkedIn

Advertisement
Nic Hayes

Nic is managing director at communications company Media Stable.