Posts Tagged ‘presidential reputation’
In an article today on the academic dream team that consulted with President Obama’s team, a few lessons are shared that should be helpful for the public sector and CEOs or other executives. The group of behavioral scientists who were unpaid advised that voters focus on two characteristics in choosing a president or leader – competence and warmth. This is especially good advice for new CEOs coming into office to hear. The article states that Romney had the competence factor working for him but less so the emotional warmth factor, particularly with all the negative advertising that many people saw. Clearly, CEOs have to project both factors to gain support from their followers.
Another lesson to be learned that was shared in the article is useful for companies facing crises (who isn’t?). The social scientists that made up the dream team advised the Democrats running the Obama campaign that when it comes to neutralizing rumors, it is best not to deny the charge but to affirm a competing one. The example given was how the rumors about President Obama being a Muslim stuck over the long term but their advice (and probably well taken) was to counteract that rumor by asserting that Obama is a Christian. I do recall hearing that. Good advice that can apply to corporate leaders faced with hearsay and wanting to deflect innuendos.
How much does charisma affect leadership reputation today? It seems to be an age old debate. Too much? Too little? Just about right? When we asked this question years ago in my research on how to build an enduring and long-lasting CEO reputation, we learned that it is was important – better to have than not have. Charismatic leadership is not what you say but how you say it. It’s not just what leaders communicate that makes them charismatic; it’s what they elicit from others. I think I read this somewhere and it stuck in my mind.
Among the new breed of CEOs today, a quieter charisma is now more important. It is not about CEO celebrity but building CEO credibility. Maybe we should call it “slow charisma.” Credibility or authenticity coupled with charisma can be electric. When you see it, you know it. However, it is not all there is to leadership. Leadership also includes sound judgment, ethical conduct, the ability to listen and serve others. Lets not kid ourselves.
The Economist just wrote an article about what we can learn from Lady Gaga and Mother Teresa about leadership. Apparently there is a lot to learn. The article infers that brilliant and flawless communications helps enormously, particularly with these two charismatic (in their own way) women. Here is an excerpt.
Mother Teresa was a “PR machine” who, whether talking to a dying leper or a rich donor, “always left her imprint by communicating in a language the other person understood”. Lady Gaga is “one of the first pop stars to have truly built her career through the internet and social media. Lady Gaga has what Messrs Anderson, Kupp and Reckhenrich call “leadership projection” and a layman would call charisma. The authors think this is because she tells “three universal stories”. First, a personal story: who am I? (She stresses that she was the weird kid at school, but driven to be creative.) Second, a group narrative: who are we? (She calls her fans “my little monsters” and herself “Mama Monster”, and she communicates with them constantly via Facebook and Twitter.) And third, a collective mission: where are we going? (She promotes gay rights and celebrates self-expression; she tells her fans that together they can change the world.)
Lady Gaga has the “ability to build emotional commitment” in those she leads, says Mr Reckhenrich. This ability is increasingly valuable in today’s business world, he believes. In “The Fine Art of Success”, a book he and his co-authors released last year, they examine it at length. They are now working with Egon Zehnder, an executive-recruitment firm, to figure out how to identify whether candidates for top corporate jobs have the ability to “project leadership” the way Lady Gaga does.
Charisma can be critical when a leader has to deliver an important message, whether the individual has it or not. I think former President George W. Bush demonstrated charisma when he faced the nation after 9-11, both on television from the oval office and when visiting the site of the World Trade Towers site in New York City. All eyes were on him and he delivered, as required. However, that charismatic leadership soon faded with the war in Iraq and debacle of Hurricane Katrina because the empathy, emotional connection and authenticity were AWOL. Former President Clinton has it in spades. President Obama has it and especially when he puts it to good use.
In this day and age, it is not enough for CEOs to bark orders or to manage the bottom line only. Being able to deliver meaning and purpose along with a dose of slow charisma and empathetic communications is required. It is a tall order, I know.
On my way to work today I read an article about the West Wing Week video series which I had forgotten about until now. The article is focused on Arun Chaudhary who is the White House videographer in charge of capturing the activity of the President every week. He is the first person to hold this job. There are segments that are fun, some serious and some very stately. The aim is to document the presidency for historical purposes and no doubt they will be extremely valuable 25 years from now.
The video is approved by the White House Comms Shop (that is what they call it) before it goes live. Essentially it is what we in the comms business call “owned media.” The White House is the content provider and is sending the message of an active, friendly, presidential occupant of Pennsylvania Avenue.
What interested me after watching this week’s video was how positive the message was compared to what I tend to read in the press, online and on cable news. Most of the latter is neutral to negative. The video does a fine job of changing perception, interesting to watch (speechwriter working on board Air Force One, Michelle Obama serving food to military in Germany, Obama and his wife dancing with children in India who pull them in) and a reminder of the stateliness of the office. I get the point that it is put out by the White House but it is more reassuring than what the media delivers to us every day. In fact, it was a relief because the news can be downright depressing.
In an article I wrote on Reputation Warfare appearing in December’s Harvard Business Review, I mention the saliency of video as a way to communicate directly with stakeholders in defending and safeguarding reputation. The best reputation antagonists use video strategically, so why not the President?
Interestingly, in the article and the short video with Arun and the writer, they mention that there is tremendous interest in the West Wing Week video internally. Always a side-benefit that companies should seriously consider…..