What the face of medicore leaders looks like

 In Body language, Facial expression

Serious businessman posingBefore doing a piece of work with a client I’ll often have a coffee at a cafe at the bottom of the office tower, before going to the client’s reception desk. At the these cafes I regularly observe senior executives getting their flat whites and macchiatos.

Many of these people (mostly men, though increasingly women too)  look very serious.

They look like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

On further observation and reflection it seems that ‘projecting seriousness’ is their default presentation of themselves to the world. That they’ve worked out that being serious will make other people perceive them as intelligent, or competent. Or maybe, that a serious facade will hide how scared they are – will hide from others, that they aren’t that competent, or aren’t across their current position.

Whether you agree with the premise ‘Serious doesn’t mean intelligent or competent’ or not, to me it’s a sad situation for the junior people who report to these senior executives. (and I’m not suggesting these executives don’t have significant challenges in their roles).

The executives are providing a poor model for their reports who aspire to their role. They’re teaching and modelling, that looking serious is the way to project yourself when at a senior executive level. This ‘teaching’ will encourage these future senior executives to start becoming serious themselves, to fit the mould.

Effective leadership is about being forward-looking, honest, inspiring and competent – not about projecting a false seriousness. In surveys* covering the last 25+ years, of the top 20 characteristics of admired leaders, across a wide range of countries, ‘being serious’ doesn’t get a mention.

*Please see Kouzes & Posner’s book, The Leadership Challenge

To combat this false seriousness, Your CALL to action/HOW to apply for this post: In the next seven days, on purpose aim to take a professional attitude to your job while you lighten up your face and carriage of your body, and lighten up about yourself and the presentation of yourself to the world.

Check out this post about Albert Camus and executive coaching


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