Saturday, 9 May 2015

Presence and authenticity

I have spoken at several events in recent months to women climbing up the career tree and some of what I, and others, have said is resonating a bit with me in relation to the general election results.

It’s really tough: while you are working your socks off you also need to plan your career progression, make sure you network with appropriate people, find sponsors or mentors, be ahead of the game,  develop your skills – the list is endless.  Then there are the other behaviours you need to exhibit – we have moved on from “think out of the box” and “walk the walk” to “fake it until you make it” through to the latest – “be authentic” I am sure you can come up with clich├ęs by the dozen.

Unquestioningly you need to develop presence: something that ensures that people notice you, look at you and listen to you.  That is where the technique lies but after that is authenticity.  For the former – take acting classes!  I am finding that more and more of the successful women I meet took acting classes (me too!) perhaps at school or college or even amateur dramatics. You learn how to develop presence and how to think yourself into a part and project it even though you are so nervous you could be sick!

So now you have the tools – what about authenticity. I didn’t want to headline this article “Did a lack of authenticity lose Labour the election” as we are a bit electioned out - but I am wondering if that was the case. 

Today’s press is full of post election analysis but one article in particular rang a chord. It is a superb article about Ed Miliband’s leadership by Philip Collins in The Times today Conviction politician lacked self-awareness right to the very end. It is more than that – Collins comments, “To the end he seemed detached and unknowable.” 

The persona that he was projecting was not authentic.

Whatever your political views David Cameron seems comfortable in his own skin. Yes, it may be a posh Tory-boy skin and rolling up his sleeves or taking off his tie doesn’t change that – but he is comfortable. So you think you know what you are getting. Perhaps that’s why some people who felt embarrassed to admit to voting Tory did in the end – at least you felt that what you saw was what you would get - he just felt the most authentic.

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