There are many ridiculous phrases that are tossed around these days to describe someone’s abilities or skills in the workplace. Some of which include: ninja, guru, wizard, and rockstar. All of which are supposed to denote some sort of monumental ability to accomplish something in ways that others cannot.
Here’s the thing. You can call yourself whatever you want, but at the end of the day all that matters is whether or not you can deliver the goods. If you succeed in doing so, people will begin to refer to you with the hyperbole that you so desperately seek, without you having to look like a total tool in the process.
The same holds true for being thought of as a thought leader in your industry. Thought leader isn’t a descriptor that you give yourself, it’s one that is earned over time with the respect and admiration of your peers or community. Think of some famous visionaries from your generation. For me, that would be someone like Steve Jobs. The man was brilliant, but not flamboyantly so. At no point in time did you hear Steve Jobs refer to himself as a design ninja or product marketing wizard, though he was (and is still) widely considered to be such a person. He earned those stripes through a series of successes and failures that defined his career. Did he know without question that the iPod would change the world forever? Probably not. Did he truly believe that the iPad would become the computer of the future. Maybe, but the fact that he had the guts to make that bet, alone, says more about him than some bullshit monicker ever could.
Even with all of this being said, there will still be those who refer to themselves as gurus, prophets, or what have you, and that’s ok. You guys just keep on doing what you’re doing while the rest of us actually make a difference and find ways to change the world. If nothing else, at least by adding this line to your bio I’ll know who not to hire or which sessions to avoid when I attend my next conference.