Jim's Marketing Blog

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Visionary, thought leader, maverick or fool? You decide!

Over the past few hours alone, I have seen people using their online profiles to clearly indicate who they are.

  • One lady called herself a visionary.
  • A guy called himself a thought leader.
  • Many referred to themselves as mavericks.

In each case, what the person thought they were doing, was elevating their status.  Of course, in reality they were showing the world that they know nothing about the way that true visionaries, thought leaders or mavericks work.

In my experience, the people who actually possess the rare qualities, which these ill-informed people claim to have, do not have to tell us what they are.  They earn the titles, which other people then use to describe them.

  • Steve Jobs doesn’t call himself a visionary - We see it for ourselves, by what he does.
  • Seth Godin doesn’t call himself a thought leader – We see it for ourselves, by what he does.
  • Leo Laporte doesn’t call himself a maverick – We see it for ourselves, by what he does.

The bottom line: Just as trust is to be earned and not demanded, so are the rare attributes, which so many people readily claim for themselves online.  People show us they are visionaries, thought leaders or mavericks by their actions – Not the labels they eagerly use in a poor attempt to impress others.

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  1. Great post Jim! I really do not like when people describe themselves as experts, gurus etc. I totally agree that they need to earn these “titles”. People do not need these titles to get followers on Twitter.

    • Hi Christine. I see more of this on Twitter than anywhere else. It’s amazing that so many people think attaching those titles to themselves, is actually positive.

  2. Great post and as usual…so very true. You forgot one other word used by self proclaiming successful people…guru! ;-)

  3. Heh, great picture for the post. I agree, if you have to lard yourself up with fantastic titles, most folk’s BS detectors will quickly go off. I think it is the digital equivalent of snake oil.

    Basically, “Actions speak louder than words” would be a good summary :)

  4. But I am – I am a thought-leader, visionary, maverick!

    Did I leave out douchebag?


    Maybe that’s a little harsh… what are these people thinking???

    Cheers Jim

  5. Agreeing with Mike here, it seems to be the equivalent to what people used to do when they tried to sell “miracle” potions and claimed to be healers. :)

    I think guru is my personal favorite one that makes me cringe.

  6. Hey Jim,

    As true as your words are, we all use some title or term to explain who or what we believe we are, that doesn’t make it right though.

    I agree, people who are identified as a Visionary, Thought-leader or a Maverick are done so by others, not themselves.

    I have been labelled as a business visonary in my community because I share what I see, I used to call myself a visionary and a Futurist, but I’m really just a person with alittle Foresight.

    All I try to do is help people see what I see, and then help them create ideas to adopt that foresight. Having said that, I’m not sure you or I can beat people up to badly for trying to reconcile what a person may or may not be in their own legendary mind : )

    If I’m a legend, someone else decided I was, if I’m a Visionary, someone told me I was, if I’m nobody, I probably told myself I was a nobody. We all need to be validated on some level in my humble opinion.

    Thanks for sharing, and see you in your morning!


    • Thanks for the comment Owen. An interesting take.

    • I agree we all need to be validated on some level, but that’s different than calling yourself a legend or a futurist or a visionary. You let others say that for you.

      • Hi Gini! The one useful thing about these self-proclaimed visionaries, thought leaders, ect, is that their title allows you to skip to the next person real fast.

        Like you say; “if you have to tell people you’re the smartest person in the room, you clearly are not.”

        Thanks for stopping by the blog my friend.

  7. It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.

    • Absolutely right, Steve.

      The 30 year old, living in his parents basement with nothing new to say, tweeting instead of getting a job, can call himself a thought leader all day long. Doesn’t mean he is.

  8. Like I always say, if you have to tell people you’re the smartest person in the room, you clearly are not.

  9. I wouldn’t go to university and claim being a master at arts in my first year, neither would I make exaggerated claims online.

    As with any positive title I have seen attached to a person, you first learn, put in the hard work and then be given the title because you provide a service.

    • Like you say Stuart, it’s about earning the respect of others, as a visionary, thought leader or whatever. Not self proclaiming it.

      As Gini said earlier, “if you have to tell people you are the smartest person in the room, you clearly are not!”

  10. Thank you Jim!I realized after reading your post that my Twitter description had the word “guru” in it!! (referring to my skills in client relationship management, not social media). I’m learning that those terms in the social platforms are out of place because they cannot be easily validated by people who read them with no context. Thanks for the reminder – I’ve changed my Twitter bio already:)

    • Hi Chris. I don’t think the problem is related to social platforms – If people call themselves a visionary or thought leader on their business card, it’s just the same.

      The reason it makes the vast majority of people gag, is that it’s self-proclaimed. I like how Gini said ir in an earlier comment:

      “if you have to tell people you are the smartest person in the room, you clearly are not!”

      I really wish I had written that ;)

      Thanks for the comment

  11. LOL!
    But it actually suits you Gin :). Plus, it’s someone else who’s naming you that – so heck, it’s good!

    From now on it’s Aunt Gini DD!

  12. Jim,
    I love this post!

    Let us not forget the guru’s and ninja’s of the blogosphere and twitterverse. I use to get this itch when I’d read these but I’ve become quite immune to them in the last months ha!

    It’s always more impressive and rewarding to hear such things from others about you.

    It’s kinda like saying “I have a lot of power in this city” – you’d think if you really did, you’d simply need to sit back and listen to others say that about you right?

    Thanks for writing this up Jim.

    PS – Sorry for where my last comment went – it was actually a direct reply to Gini but for some reason it didn’t go in that particular thread but instead as a stand-alone.

  13. I’m a legend in my own mind, Jim. ;) Actually, I don’t think this statement is all that far off base. I think people who aspire to be thought leaders or visionaries should claim that title proudly every day – to their mirror.

    All of the men in your post know that they are the respective titles you’ve listed. Nobody had to tell them. The problem isn’t in the self-affirmation, but in the exclamation of this truth to others.

    Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” Praise for oneself is always sweeter to hear on another’s lips – both for you and all who hear it.

    Thanks for the reminder not to cheapen our praise by letting it escape our own mouths.

  14. Hi Jim. Sorry I missed this when you frist posted it.

    I too find it a fine balance of “selling yourself” to your audience, remaining truthful. I did a year long stint consulting in the PR world on medical campaigns and found it interesting that with simple words you could “sell” yourself better. For example I have written 3 pieces (one a children’s book, and 2 stories that were accepted for publication in charitable works) Here is the first one that went to print a collection of stories about fathers: https://www.createspace.com/3618100 More info on this book can be found here:

    Am I a published author? Yes and no. Technically by the traditional sense I would say no (on best seller lists etc). So is it wrong to list this on my list of accomplishment when selling my self? I struggle with this.

    Online business is much like living the expat life. You can be anyone you want… Scary. We’ve met a handful of “posers” over the years living abroad and have weeded them out quickly. What has helped online is meeting a few people online and then watching who they follow :)

    Happy Father’s Day!

  15. Love this! I went to Google looking for an article such as this and struck pay dirt! It’s exactly what has been grating on my nerves for some time and making me become disenchanted with my chosen profession. I hope you don’t mind if I re-post it on my website.

    Keep up the great writing!

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