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The Bullhorn Mentality

by | Feb 10, 2018 | Azure, BoardRoom, Microsoft

(Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash)

I was recently making some changes to my LinkedIn profile, nothing out of the ordinary there, I guess. Seeking inspiration I decided to go take a peek at some of the profiles of my peers as I was pondering sprucing up my tag-line.

Exploring, clicking and browsing from associate to associate, I noticed something that had previously evaded me — there are fewer people doing any actual work.

What made me think this?

The sheer number of daft titles and tag-lines.

In less than ten minutes I came across half a dozen ‘Thought Leaders’, three ‘mavens’, a number of ‘ninjas’, a handful of ‘rock stars’ and even a ‘guru’.

What in the blazes are all these? Who the heck is doing the actual work?

Whatever happened to the ‘Sales Manager’, the ‘Software Developer’, the ‘Marketing Exec.’ or the plain-old ‘CEO’?

I will tell you what happened to them — self-proclaimed marketing happened to them.

The Bullhorn Mentality is born.

Folks now believe it is no longer good enough to be be proud of and factual about what they do. Belief now exists that it is necessary to be flamboyantly public, bullshitty and noisy about it — even if these proclamations are in the eye of the author only.

LinkedIn profiles now seem to be about being shouty, shouty and thrice shouty with an almost total disregard for what is being shouted — the Bullhorn Mentality.

The trend of fewer folks just stating on their profiles what it is they actually do is becoming a plague and is a surefire sign of the times.

Everybody is planning for the future. Permanently.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. LinkedIn is a platform for self-promotion. It’s a platform for your next role, a calling card for that next speaking gig or media quote. Believe me, I get that. I recognize that in a comical, borderline ironic way, the act of writing this post is me being shouty, right? Perhaps.

All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was… what he was doing.

When Jedi Master Yoda is talking with shimmery Ben Kenobi (in the middle third of The Empire Strikes Back for you under-rock dwellers) he perfectly describes the foundation of my gripe. The seeming lack of understanding that if you focus on now, the future will take care of itself.

Platforms like LinkedIn provide means of exposure for everybody so the lack of focus in the present is becoming relentless. This is the crux my gripe.

Nobody is taking pride in what they’re doing and the fact they’re doing it well. So focused are they on self-promotion for the future that in an effort to buff up, LinkedIn members are just writing nonsense into their profiles.

Blatant self-promotion? Moi?

Let’s look at the term ‘Thought Leader’. It’s laughable. Trust me. You are NOT a ‘Thought Leader’. Thought Leadership status is earned. It’s ‘voted on’ by your peers. It’s awarded, in a manner of speaking. If you’re writing it about yourself you’re not even Thought Leader material in my view. Best case? You’re a ‘Thought Repeater’, a serial re-tweeter in more than 280 characters.

Let’s examine being a ‘maven’. Just look at how Gladwell (in his book ‘The Tipping Point’) defines the usage — ‘(a maven is) often the first to become aware of new or nascent trends’ — it’s pretty likely you’re not even first in the queue in Starbucks, let alone in identifying trends in your given field.

Let’s think about being a ‘ninja’. Nope. You’ve failed. Silence, invisibility, misdirection — all traits of a ninja — by drawing attention to being one, ninja you ain’t.

What about ‘rock star’? If you’re the front for (or for that matter a musician in) a band with at least 10 million unit sales, I’ll allow it. If not, you need to be ‘renowned or revered in your field of accomplishment’ [//] so think Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking or Sheldon Cooper like status. No? Fail.

My, what a big chopper!

In writing this, I was reminded of an anecdote. For the life of me, I cannot recall when or where I heard this story, but I do like it.

Folks are at a party. A fancy party. In a fancy, fancy house. The party is in full swing when a helicopter flies over and lands on the lawn at the rear of the house. A man and a tall lady step out and stride confidently up the steps into the house. Greeted by the host, they get a drink and mingle. Awe struck, one of the hired servers asks the man, “Is that your helicopter?” The man smiles, “Sure is!” Impressed, the server continues, “What do you do to make enough money to have your own helicopter?” Smiling again, the man responds with a wink “I’m in sales.” Later on, after the guests have left, the host is thanking the staff and says to the curious server “I hear you spoke with Rupert?” “Rupert?” replied the server. “Yeah, the guy in the helicopter was Rupert Murdoch, the media guy…”

The point is clear. Murdoch. A global player, mover and shaker, influencer and some would say ‘total bastard’ saw himself very simply. He was a ‘sales guy’ and he knew he was good at it, so he was proud of it.

Let’s go back to basics with LinkedIn.

Be proud of what you do and why you do it. Be honest about what you do in that pride.

If you sell, say it. If you program computers, say it. If you makes cups and saucers, say it.

Let’s de-bullshit-ify our profiles. Let’s say what we do. Let’s take pride in our chosen vocations. Let’s be less focused on saying we’re leaders, experts and ‘keynote speakers’ and increase our pride in the fact we’re workers. Hard workers. Workers focused on the now, knowing the future will take care of itself.