When you walk in a room it is obvious who the leader is. Their presence is palpable. They command the room, inspire and influence us. They make us feel safe.
Executives of business are known by their intrinsic leadership brand. From Richard Branson to Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs their branding has it’s own personality that is congruent with their overall leadership strategy. It is purposeful.
So if being purposeful is part of having a powerful leadership imprint, how do the ‘Forbes 5 Most Powerful People’ stack up? Or as inspirational leaders, are they letting us down?
Let’s rate them based on appearance, body language and digital footprint.
Purely based on the fact that we’ve been subjected to Putin’s bare chest for far too many holiday photo ops, he’s going straight to the bottom of the class for appearance.
Our unconscious bias tells us that being overweight is lazy and self-indulgent, so Trump and Jinping have some work to do on fitness.
Merkel’s standard appearance in boxy suits and the pageboy haircut is unfortunately so uninspiring. Leaving only the Pope in his uniformed regalia appearing to have the upper hand here.
It’s difficult to address appearance without referring to Trump’s hair and tie length, both of which have been analyzed extensively. We would all love both of them to be shortened, along with the sitting term of an American President.
When Merkel rolled her eyes during a conversation with Putin recently she showed public disdain for his number 1 ranking on the Forbes list.
Putin’s own body language comes off as more indignant than inclusive, whilst Trump’s handshake leaves the impression that he is about bringing down any and all who come in contact with him. Both Putin and Trump’s sitting posture shows arrogance, combativeness and sexual posturing.
Jinping has, as expected, well controlled body language, yet quite often crosses his hands in front of his body, a sign of protecting himself. He doesn’t portray the arrogance or combativeness (or sexual posturing for that matter) of Putin or Trump, but his tendency to slouch in his chair reflects disinterest or tiredness.
Once again the Pope seems to come out on top. Hailed as the ‘anti-Trump’ by The New Yorker, his body language is quite understandably open and welcoming. He leans into conversations and carries himself with confidence.
Putin’s twitter account looks like the answer to the dinner table question ‘so, what did you get up to today?’ It’s dry and literal and clearly the work of a social media aid. In stark contrast we all know that, frighteningly at times, Trump commands his own twitter voice. Tweets have been described as inappropriate, insensitive, sexist, idiotic, racially charged, offensive, hypocritical and just blatantly incorrect. None of which are high on the list of preferred leadership qualities.
In stark contrast, Merkel (like Jinping) doesn’t have a twitter account. Instead of adding to the digital volume, Merkel is endeavouring to control it. A fighter for global regulations for the digital world, Merkel is working towards ‘sensible standards’ in security in particular. Sounds like a leadership conversation as opposed to just adding to the noise.
According to Twiplomacy, the Pope (with more than 22 million followers on twitter) is the most influential world leader on the social media network. It’s not surprising that the Pope’s digital footprint is spiritual, uplifting and positive. Regardless of belief systems, I tried to find a negative tweet, one that demeaned or belittled anyone or any place. I couldn’t find any words of condemnation or hate. From a leadership perspective it was on perfectly on brand. There was no mistaking the message, the values or the vision.
When I started this comparison I truly did not expect to see The Pope come out on top of the leadership image challenge. I quickly assumed that any one of the Politicians would rise to the top, even if by default or manufacture.
If not for Merkel’s uninspiring appearance, she may well have been a closer contender for best leadership image, but coming in second will hopefully stop her from rolling her eyes again.
Jinping, Putin and Trump all exude, amongst other things, the presence of arrogance and self-interest. In small doses these traits can be mistaken for gravitas, however over time are seen for what they are and lead to disengagement.
It takes more than just a smart suit to have leadership presence. It’s a total package from appearance to body language, attitude and communication style. The external stuff can be taken care of by a savvy corporate image expert like me. But if the values and behaviours of any leader are not genuinely for the betterment of people and the planet, then no amount of polishing will make that person shiny.