I don't know about you, but I always wanted to be a Management Guru.
I know what you're saying: But you have a column on leadership, but you speak at conferences around the country, but you even seem, in that smarty-pants photo of yours, like you think you might actually know something. And you'd be right.
But I'm still not a Management Guru.
How do I know this? Because at a recent seminar, I found -- after a well-known Management Guru had just left the stage -- a tattered copy of the Management Guru's Secret Handbook. This manuscript -- whose existence has long been denied by Management Gurus -- details their rituals, responsibilities and requirements.
Just what, you ask, does the Secret Handbook say I'd have to do to become a Management Guru?
Well, first I'd have to dye my hair silver, even though I'd still be youthful in appearance (face lift optional). Then I'd need to wear a black turtleneck under a houndstooth check jacket, just to let audiences know that even though they might have to wear ties, I don't. And I would be fit, very fit, because I would have some hobby that working stiffs like you can't even imagine trying, e.g., sailing a catamaran across the Pacific Ocean, being a mountain climber or parachuting naked. The kind of hobby that during my introduction would seem very adventurous, but which, upon reflection, is actually pretty risky for a middle-aged guy who gets paid $100,000 for a one-hour gig.
My resume -- rewritten by the fawning acolytes at my office, which, by the way, I will have renamed something cute like "Chaos Central -- would include the names of every company whose CEO I ever bumped into at a conference, as well as a summary of my best-selling book. This tome would be cleverly titled, maybe "The Chaos of the Buffalo" -- and would reveal (not report, mind you, but reveal) the amazing stories of companies that succeeded by using MY (that's capital "M" capital "Y") Chaotic Buffalo methodology and principles.
My manner would be impeccable but superior, with my every phrase letting you know just how courteous and humble I am in being courteous and humble to you. I would be so devastatingly polite, in fact, that you might not even ask me why it is, if you're already paying me $100,000, that you also had to send a private jet for me.
I would have an abnormal amount of energy, even at 8 a.m. At first, you would think: Wow, being a Chaotic Buffalo really does lead to happiness. Later though, you would realize I just cashed the check.
You would ask me ahead of time what I will speak about, inquiring as to any new research, and I would say: Oh, that. Then I'd tell you that rather than something new and fleeting, I hoped instead to focus on Permanent Principles. At first you would think: Wow, Principles that are Permanent. Later, you would re-read "The Chaos of the Buffalo" (Page 186, Permanent Principles) and realize: He's going to talk about the same old book.
Most of all, though, when I spoke, I would say things with dramatic pauses.
Or maybe . . . even . . .
I would do this, of course, to let you know that what I was saying . . . even if it was simply common sense . . . was, in fact, a Big Thought. Bigger than you could imagine. Bigger, probably, than you could even hold in your head.
And even though I would still be humble and courteous, you might eventually ask yourself, for $100,000, why you would put up with any of this.
The funny thing is, even if I were a Management Guru, I'd be wondering, too.
John R. Brandt, formerly editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek, is CEO of the Manufacturing Performance Institute, a research and consulting firm based in Shaker Heights, Ohio.