Guru Literacy: Qualities of a Leader


Guru literacy is about both evaluating self-help events and the people who lead them. Last week we discussed how to judge the safety of self-help events. What about the leader or guru himself? What qualities should your guru have so that you can trust him or her? There have been many studies of leadership. Most assessments of leaders focus on some key concepts for evaluating that leader’s effectiveness such as:

  • Knowledge: Does this person have adequate background and training in areas that he is discussing in detail or claiming to have extensive knowledge of. For example, if a guru is doing therapy at an event, does he have actual training in mental health? Is there substance behind his teachings, or is it just rhetoric and spin?
  • Experience: How long has this teacher been around? Does she have experience and maybe even certification, where applicable, for techniques she is using at an event? Has she been “vetted” as a reliable, effective mentor?
  • Compassion: Does the teacher truly have your best interests at heart? Is the guru a good listener? Is the guru understanding that people are different, life circumstances are different, or is he promoting a one-size fits all program?
  • Ability to Inspire and Empower: Does the leader simply want to “rule” over the followers? An effective leader helps his followers find their own self-worth so they can effectively outgrow him, rather than pushing them around or trying to get them “hooked” on his program and spending more money.

The true leader uses all his power, not to rule others, but to impart the power and intelligence to them to rule themselves. –Eugene V. Debs

  • Personal Integrity: Does this person practice what she preaches? Is her life consistent with the life you are looking to lead? Is she able to recognize her mistakes (which even the best leader will make from time to time) and learn from them?

Undertaking a program of personal growth is an amazing challenge. You become vulnerable and open to change. It is extremely important that you can trust your guru during this time! Take the time to evaluate a teacher first to be sure that he deserves your trust. What qualities do you find important in a leader? Who do you hold as an example of an effective leader?

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