Episode 73

Real Leaders Are Not Scammers

Published on: 8th May, 2023

Faithful on the Clock is a podcast with the mission of getting your work and faith aligned. We want you to understand Who you're serving and why so you can get more joy and legacy from every minute spent on the clock. Thanks for joining us and taking this step toward a more fulfilling job and relationship with God!

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In this episode...

Real Leaders Are Not Scammers


Some people genuinely are out to help and provide useful products and services. Others are just scammers in guru clothing. Episode 73 of Faithful on the Clock helps you recognize and avoid scammers, offering some strategies to convince others you’re the real deal rather than a fraud.


[00:04] - Intro

[00:37] - Definition of a scammer guru

[01:20] - Characteristic #1: Scammer gurus play on emotions.

[02:09] - Characteristic #2: Scammer gurus create backstories that make them seem relatable and as though they are good, trustworthy people.

[02:51] - Characteristic #3: Scammer gurus rely on anecdotal evidence that is highly hyped and which pushes a high-cost price point.

[03:40] - Scripture reminds us both that God is a God of truth and that He doesn’t want us to lie, steal, or deal falsely. The Word can comfort us if we are taken advantage us and warn us against doing anything fraudulent. 

[04:46] - Good leaders often will manipulate or counsel using psychological tactics. Their intent, however, is to protect, and they do not lie or cheat when they use those tactics. It’s always to ensure the customer or shareholders stay on the path those customers or shareholders need. Scammers, however, manipulate for their own gain.

[05:52] - Tips for how to avoid scammer gurus (e.g., examining the guru’s team)

[07:43] - Presenting Yourself As a Real Leader  Tip #1: Present your customer or shareholder with choice.

[08:38] - Presenting Yourself As a Real Leader  Tip #2: Make it clear you are as much a learner as you are a teacher.

[09:43] - Presenting Yourself As a Real Leader  Tip #3: Open the circle to include other professionals, making recommendations to ensure the customer or shareholder gets what is truly helpful.

[10:22] - Recap

[10:44] - Prayer

[11:20] - Outro/What’s coming up next

Key takeaways:

  • Scammer gurus build a reputation for themselves through books or other means. They claim they are going to help you be successful but really just peddle snake oil.
  • Scammer gurus exhibit some key characteristics and behaviors, including preying on the desire for community and security, promoting themselves inside a moral ideology, providing mostly anecdotal evidence in a flashy show, and tiers in which the most expensive plan is the one most heavily promoted.
  • Scripture is clear that people aren’t to lie or fraud others. So the Bible provides both solace and a warning in the understanding justice will come.
  • Good leaders do manipulate, but they don’t lie or get away from the truth, and their tactics are always done with a selfless desire to protect others. Scammer gurus manipulate only for their own personal gain.
  • To avoid scammers, look for their key characteristics, hunt for details about what you’ll get with them, ask specific questions to get them to engage on a personal level, and check to see how cooperative the team is.
  • To ensure that no one mistakes you for a scammer, avoid engaging in the behaviors the scammers routinely follow. Present choice — don’t shove anything down the customer’s throat, but rather ask what they want, listen, and try to empower them. Make it clear you are as much of a learner as you are a teacher, and be open, recommending others who can help if you can’t.

Relevant Links:


  • Identify some scammer gurus in the media or your industry. Pinpoint why they meet the scammer guru criteria.
  • Call out scammer gurus to those who might be vulnerable to them.
  • Come up with an action plan to build the three methods of convincing others you are legitimate into your everyday work.

What’s coming up next:

Most of us can get nervous, anxious, or tense at work, especially if the stakes of the tasks are high. Episode 73 of Faithful on the Clock presents some science-based methods to stay calm by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system, highlighting appreciation for God’s physical design and the supplemental power of prayer.

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Hello, all of you out there. I’m Wanda Thibodeaux, your host, and you’re listening to the Faithful on the Clock podcast, the show where every crayon in the box colors a picture of work and faith aligned. Today’s show is an important one in the ethics arena, because we’re talking about scammer gurus, those people who always try to sell you success in a bottle. How do you recognize ‘em? Avoid ‘em? Prove to people you’re NOT one of ‘em? Let’s break it all down in the next 10 to 15 minutes.


All right, listeners. So let’s all get on the same page and define exactly what I mean by scammer guru. A scammer guru is somebody who, through books or motivational speeches, courses, or advertisements builds a reputation for themselves. And while these people often make really — and I mean REALLY — good money, they don’t really sell much of value. Instead of real solutions, they basically peddle snake oil. And I’d love to name some names here to give you some examples, but just to keep myself legally safe, I’ll avoid that, but just know these people are all over the place. It’shard NOT to find them, and you’ll probably think of a few as soon as I give you the traits they usually show.


So what do these people, these scammer gurus look like? What do they do that’s always recognizable? Well, the first thing is that they play on emotions a lot. They make you believe that the solution you’ve needed to be successful is just a few steps away, and that if you just hand them a check, you can find out what those simple few steps are. So they prey on the desire people have to kind of bypass hard work and speed things up. They prey on the fear people have that they won’t have the time or energy or other resources to beat out the other guy and compete. And their whole spiel is basically one big promise toward community and security. That’s part of why they’re able to trick people so easily, because the need for community and security, those are really universal needs we all have.


Secondly, scammer gurus usually have some kind of backstory they use that makes them seem super relatable. And I mean, not everybody who tells you their story is out to cheat you, right? But the backstory these gurus use is usually, it’s cloaked in some kind of moral ideology. So whereas a real leader, they’re just like, this is where I’ve been, here’s what I learned that maybe will help you, a scammer is always trying to paint themselves as being the good person you need as a mentor. They’re always trying to portray themselves as just being further along on the journey than you, and they’ll tell you everything and let you in the club if you just pay $19.99 or whatever it is.


And then the third characteristic or behavior you’ll see from scammer gurus is that almost everything they give you is anecdotal. So they put a lot of energy into getting people to be brand ambassadors and make the case for them that you should buy. And they hype everything up and put on this huge show to convince you that what they’re doing is changing lives, when the reality is, probably the only real data they have about their influence is units sold or how many dollars of business they did. And related to this, they might have some kind of tier thing going on, where you know, you can access ALL their secrets for some ridiculously higher amount, but they’ll constantly be pushing that higher tier. Like, it’s not just a casual upsell just in case you’re interested, right? It’s like a hardcore, every three seconds, they’re pushing it on you.


So to put these people into perspective or to get a grasp on what they’re doing from the Christian point of view, we know that God is always a God of truth, right? Psalm 119:160 says, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal." And Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” And conversely, we know that God is not a fan of fraud or scamming or cheating people. Leviticus 19:11 says, “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.” Proverbs 21:6 is powerful, too, and that says, “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.” So I want you to understand that, you know, even though these people can seem like they have a tremendous influence, anything they gain is not gonna be long-lasting. So you can take that as solace if you’ve been scammed by one of these people, or you know, you can take it as a warning, too, to not be like them, because it’s not gonna be of any gain to you.


Now, having said all that, I want to point out that, you know, I think good leaders, sometimes they can have customers or shareholders who have their own blind spots or biases. And those blind spots or biases stop the customers or shareholders from seeing what they need. And so part of responsible leadership is, in a very compassionate and loving way, to manipulate those customers or shareholders to a better decision. And I want to be clear here that the leader is not doing this for their own gain or advantage, OK? They’re doing it to protect. There’s nothing malicious or selfish in their intent. And they’re not lying, they’re still truthful, but they use strategies and tactics that psychologically guide people to get on or stay on the right path. But with a scammer guru, you see the manipulation is totally selfish. They might say they want you to succeed, but at the end of the day, all they care about is whether you write the check. So intent, how and why you guide or counsel them, that really matters.


So now, how do you avoid these scammers? Well, the easiest thing is, just look for all those characteristics I just mentioned. If you see those things, you can probably walk in the other direction. But I’d recommend that you also, you know, if you need guidance or a good course or whatever it is, do your due diligence and see if you can find people you actually know who have experience with the person you’re thinking about buying from or interacting with. Get a second opinion that’s not on the guru’s website. A big red flag, too, is that you can’t get any specifics about what you’re actually gonna get. So if the guru just gives a broad overview of the goals and everything is just super positive and aspirational, and you can’t even get a detailed outline of how you’re going to learn from this person, you can’t preview any of the materials or the points for the talk, that’s not a good sign. And then, I’d see if you can talk to the guru to ask even one specific question about your personal situation. If they can’t adapt to your circumstances and show you exactly how their offer would move you forward, or if they don’t want to go into any kind of depth with you and empathetically listen because they’re so busy selling to the crowd, then they’re probably in it for themselves, not you. And finally, look at the guru’s team. Most of the time, if you’ve got someone who’s actually solid, you know, the team might not immediately connect you to the main person you wanna talk to, depending how booked that person is, but they’ll do everything they can to be genuinely helpful. They’re gonna answer as many questions as they can, and both the team and the person you’re after should be willing to send you somewhere else if that’s what’s really going to help. With a scammer, the team really tries to put a hedge around the guru to protect the scam. They’ll promote the guru without ever really answering you or letting you get too close.


So now I want to give you three ways to ensure that no one mistakes your identity. You don’t want anyone to think you’re one of these scammers, right? You want to show them you’re a follower of God and that you’ve got some integrity. So the first thing, of course, look at those behaviors I listed out and make sure you’re not doing any of that kind of stuff. But then make sure you present your listener with choice. Real leaders, they don’t shove anything down people’s throats. They don’t tell them they’d be crazy not to take what they have, which of course they just conveniently happened to offer at the perfect time in the customer’s life. They don’t talk about what the customer deserves like they’re omnipotent. Instead, ask what your customer or shareholder wants. Share some of your own experiences with real empathy. Really try to empower them by helping them to recognize and build the skills they need to achieve their own vision.


Secondly, make it clear that you’re as much a learner as you are a teacher. Jeremiah 9:23 says, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom.” So humility is important. Give some evidence that you know you haven’t quote unquote arrived and that you just have different information, not necessarily better or more information. If you have some kind of conclusion, be willing to reevaluate it right in front of them. It’s all about approaching that customer or shareholder with respect because you recognize that relationships are reciprocal. It’s about knowing the customer or shareholder is also their own expert and has their own lessons to share. And again, you know, psychology, we know that people don’t want perfect hero leaders. They want people who are flawed like them, who are willing to show that humility and admit they don’t know everything under the sun. When you show vulnerability to admit you’ve got things to learn, that builds trust.


Third, and this kind of ties to what I was saying earlier, open the circle. A scammer is always going to present themselves as the only one with the answers, the only one who can help. But a real leader isn’t afraid of competition. They’re not afraid to sacrifice their sale to make sure that the customer or shareholder gets the help or protection or growth they need. So if you know you can’t help or that someone else is a better fit, make a recommendation. Just be honest and say, “You know, based on what you’re telling me, I probably could help you, but I really think Joe Schmoe would do an even better job for you. Let me put you in touch.”


So I think we’ve covered it all now, right? We talked about how to recognize the scammers, how to avoid them, and how to differentiate yourself. I hope all of this, you know, either keeps you out of trouble or — well, either way, it’s gonna keep you outta trouble, whether you can stay away or whether it keeps you from getting into this kind of behavior yourself. So let’s pray.


Lord, there are people all over the world who are willing to prey on those who are vulnerable. There are people who take the need you gave us for security and community and pervert it for their own gain. And today, God, I pray that you’ll work on their heart so they understand they don’t have to resort to, you know, all of these lies and ways of fraud. And Lord, I ask that you give people wisdom and discernment and that you protect them against others who would cheat them. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.


There it is, everybody. A whole episode, just gone. I hope you’ve enjoyed the time today. I’ll admit I’ve wanted to do this episode for a while, because I just, I honestly feel pretty upset when I see people taking advantage of other people. It gets me fired up. But knowing that God is just God, I’ll leave it there for today. For our next episode, we’ll be chatting about how to stay calm under pressure by intentionally triggering your parasympathetic nervous system. It’ll be a great one if you tend to suffer from anxiety on the job or if you’re in situations that tend to be high stakes. In the meantime, go to faithfulontheclock.captivate.fm, sign up for our email list, and until I connect with you again in two weeks, be blessed.

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About the Podcast

Faithful on the Clock
Faithful on the Clock is a podcast meant to get your Christian faith and work aligned. You won’t find mantras or hacks here--just scripture-based insights to help you grow yourself, your company, and your relationship with God. If you want out of the worldly hamster wheel and want to work with purpose, then this is the show for you. Hosted by freelance business writer Wanda Thibodeaux.
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Wanda Thibodeaux

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer based in Eagan, MN. Since 2006, she has worked with a full range of clients to create website landing pages, product descriptions, articles, professional letters, and other content. She also served as a daily columnist at Inc.com for three years, where she specialized in content on business leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and behavior.

Currently, Thibodeaux accepts clients through her website, Takingdictation.com. She is especially interested in motivational psychology, self-development, and mental health.