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Why Obama LOOKED like a leader – and G.W. Bush didn’t

 In Body language, Delivery, Learning from Luminaries, Luminary, News, Politicians, The Winning Voice, What not to do

‘Walks are personal, a movement signature, and they tell us a lot . . . a person’s walk is so telltale for Paul Taylor, one of the world’s greatest modern-dance choreographers, walking is the first thing he ask dancers to do at his auditions.

“I can eliminate half of them by how they walk . . . They’re either too self-assured, or they’re just weird. You can tell an awful lot.” say Taylor'(from Walking with Grace, p.166-167, by Grace Killelea).

Taylor, in Killelea’s book, goes on to describe the walk of former U.S. President, George W. Bush.

‘It was George Bush’s walk that gave him away . . . It was a pseudomilitaristic thing that he had no experience with. A total phony. Bush’s walk was stiff and self-conscious. Someone must have told him to swing his arms more, because that’s what you noticed, those two canoe paddles rotating rhythmically into view with too much force.’

Here is a 45 second clip which demonstrates what Taylor means. You’ll see Barack Obama walking with Bush at the White House.

Note the smooth, loose and easy body carriage and movement of Obama counterpointed with Bush’s pseudomilitaristic gait. Bush’s stiff arms are particularly obvious when he waves to the out-of-view journalists.

Here’s the LINK to the clip:

What is your walk telling about you?

What is your movement signature? Are you too self-assured when walking? Do you have grace?

Killilea maintains ‘… grace inspires trust. Harmonious movement is the physical manifestation of ease and confidence, whether you’re Cary Grant at a party or a president walking across the White House lawn.

Be graceful and put doubts about your abilities to rest. Yet Bush was so uneasy with the complexities of basic locomotion, could you trust him with the fate of the nation?

He often looked like he was playing the role of a president, rather than embodying the office in the fullest sense. And the act started in his walk. That tough-guy swagger was edged in effort, as if he had splinter in his drawers. (And a splinter of doubt in his mind, or niggling deceit)’.

How you walk forms an impression and a potential for loss or gain.

People have a sixth sense for weakness and insecurity. Your walk (and how you hold and conduct your physical self) can silence other’s doubts about your ability to lead – or heighten those doubts.


Own the Conversation

For the next 7 days, when you happen to be walking:

  1. Focus your body a few centimetres below your naval, midway below your back and stomach.
  2. Keep your weight down low. Be aware of your pelvic girdle rocking back and forth.
  3. Let your legs drop free from your hips. Let them flow.
  4. Allow your body to move. Let your hanging hands and arms swing freely.
  5. Make firm contact with the soles of your feet on the ground.
  6. Walk with this analogy in mind: Like a monorail train car, smoothly gliding along its track.

After seven days, reflect on how this ‘new’ walk has been perceived by other people and how the walk makes you feel. Continue incorporating aspects of the walk that make sense to you.


p.s. By the way – with the importance of a graceful walk highlighted by Killilea – now in my One-on-One sessions with my executive clients – I video record them as they enter a room, walk along the side of the boardroom table, and then seat themselves at the front of the table

Together we watch the footage, and I deconstruct the level of calmness and enthusiasm they projected.

Here is a description of the One-on-One coaching programme. Check it out, because it might help you add the missing communication piece to claiming the next level in your career.

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