A client called the other day to ask who does Ashridge think are the most influential European Leadership Gurus? It was a good question – a very good one – and inspired a few more questions of my own.
A client called the other day to ask who does Ashridge think are the most influential European Leadership Gurus? It was a good question – a very good one – and inspired a few more questions of my own. What is a leadership guru? Do they exist? Do we believe in them? Do we have any? If we do who would be on our list? And why are they all Americans?
The lists you see on the internet are totally dominated by US nationals men of certain age. Almost as if this was a version of the baseball ‘world series’ where only teams from the US and Canada are invited to enter. European leadership gurus if they exist have a much low profile. This demanded some thinking and research time for caffeine the modern day Sherlock Holmes would have opted for two nicotine patches.
I asked around my network and frankly it barely raised an eyebrow never mind a reply. In an academic community it was surprising to see cheeks being puffed out and shoulders shrugged – and an implied that’s the way it is. So this is my contribution and I’d be only too delighted if this arouses debate.
What is a guru?
A spiritual teacher someone who leads a disciple to wisdom and self-realization imparts knowledge on the disciple or guides the disciple to divinity. It originates in Sanskrit and is formed from two words ‘Gu’ darkness and ‘Ru’ destruction literally a guru is someone who dispels darkness. An academic guru is therefore simply a secular teacher of wisdom and it is a job not a state of mind.
Do gurus exist?
There is a web site guru.com – claiming to be the largest marketplace for online talent ‘We make it easy to find hire and manage affordable freelancers’. There is even a website called leadershipgurus.net that lets you vote for your favourite. So apparently they do exist although this is not quite what our client had in mind.
Do we believe in gurus?
Ashridge does not subscribe to the ‘great man’ theory but we can observe with our own eyes that Faculty DO have favourites in teaching and consulting. And in our clients we see a strong desire to draw on wisdom from thought leaders if they have something profound to say that shapes real lives and behaviours.
Do we have any gurus in Europe?
I admit I am struggling and need help my first effort at a top ten had only eight Brits two Europeans and only one women. This can’t be right. Can you do better please – before I show my hand can you show me the way and advise how should I reply to the client? I promised to get back to them and they have been waiting some time.