No disrespect to Mr. Trump — and I’m talking about his public persona, not the man himself — but most people wouldn’t naturally connect “The Donald” with “Guru.”
Why is that?
After all, Trump has proven expertise in his field. He’s a bestselling author, several times over. He has an intensely personal “take” on not only his profession, but just about anything you might care to bring to his attention. He’s been a mentor to more than one “apprentice” (sorry, couldn’t resist). And he’s demonstrated thought leadership through his business exploits, his many books, and through Trump University.
By most standards, Trump should be considered a guru, but he isn’t. So, what gives?
Instead of me just saying why I think he’s not perceived as a guru, let’s examine two other essential methods of creating thumos (see my last post for definition), and then use that insight to figure it out.
While there are many differences between transactional and relational customers, the three most important for would-be gurus are that:
Basically, if you wish to be perceived as an expert/guru, it helps if you speak to people who are actually looking for one. And again, Dr. Shay’s essay, “Aristotle’s Rhetoric as a Handbook of Leadership” provides some insight:
For starters, we must understand the context that [Aristotle] thinks his remarks apply to, what it means for a leader to seek trust: It’s about dealing with fellow-citizens, where each looks the other in the eye and says, “you are part of my future, no matter how this turns out.”
So, targeting the relational customer requires speaking to visitors as if you:
The word Guru literally denotes a “spiritual teacher.” And even in common use, most Gurus — even cooking or productivity Gurus — see their profession in broader, almost spiritual terms. To use the parable of the three stonemasons, gurus have something of the last stonemason in them; they’re building cathedrals with their work, not just cutting stones.
Indeed, much of a Guru’s draw stems from the infectious passion they feel for their particular craft and from their humility before their craft. In sports it’s called “respect for the game.” Practically speaking, your web copy should show this passion by:
These things have to be combined with genuine thought leadership to work well — no one wants to be inspired by a wannabe Tony Robbins — but when all three guidelines are combined, they’ll transform visitors’ perception of you from a dime-a-dozen “professional” into a bona fide expert with all the ethos and persuasive credibility of a demi-Guru.
While “The Donald” is certainly a promotional genius, he has always tended to promote himself more than anything else. And let’s be honest, that’s part of his genius — but it’s also the reason why “Guru” doesn’t spring to mind when you hear his name.
Also, his promotions have almost exclusively focused on “The Deal” at hand. In fact, his first major book was even titled The Art of the Deal. I’ll confess that I know very little of the genuine passion that Donald Trump may feel for development, real estate, etc. And that’s just the point: I, the casual observer who may represent some vast segment, know more about Trump the celebrity, than Trump the passionate (and quite possibly magnanimous) professional.
Does this mean I’m bashing Donald? Hell no! He knows exactly what he’s doing. I selected him simply because he’s an excellent example of someone who might otherwise have all the other prerequisites of guru-dom, yet lacks that particular ethos because of how he’s commonly perceived. Just contrast him to Trump University’s Chief Learning Officer, Roger Schank to see what I mean. (Though far less famous, Schank genuinely is, and is widely considered to be, a guru.) Still, Trump may be well on his way to remedying that image…
In the meantime, get busy implementing the strategies we’ve discussed so far, and you just might beat him to it.