Leadership "Beauty" More Than Skin Deep

A recent study by Duke University professors indicated that men with square jaws and a strong physical presence won the "beauty" contest or should I say, the casting call for what "real" leaders are meant to look like.

I wonder if this research will start executive males sprinting into plastic surgeons offices for a chin redo? And yet, STOP; the research also indicated that this prototype of male success did not necessarily run more successful businesses.

While the research is fascinating and takes into account the "blink" before we "think" factor, that we make snap judgments before we are even aware of them, this is only part of the story.

The more important than looks department is about presence. Napoleon, that short little guy had presence. You may not have liked his politics, you may not have wanted to invite him to a dinner party, yet, he was able to command lots of people to do his bidding....at least for awhile.

So, men, before running to get a digital picture on what a new and improved face would look like think about what really matters past your jaw, your suit, and yes, even the kind of car you drive.

Think Warren Buffet, no red Porsche for him, think Harry Truman who made world class decisions and would get lost in any crowd that was looking for outward signs of powerful faces, think Bill gates who gets a nerd award for looks.

So, leave the look department and go up a few floors to the presence department. You may need to think about a custom design program that includes leadership development, workplace relationship understanding, and of course, that required vital course in business ethics.

Leadership development programs that consider the leadership qualities that have to do with values and life purpose have staying value. In Total Leadership Connections there is a module to peel away the outer trappings and uncover the inner presence. Like many other seminars today the need is to get beyond the obvious so good looks, type casting, and charisma are left at the front door of any office.

It is the tough times that mark a real leader. Think the very gentle man, Nelson Mandela who kept South Africa from becoming a blood bath after apartheid ended. His charisma came from his steadiness learned as a child in his tribal village, and from decades in prison for his political views. He is a powerful example of leadership past the outer trappings.

Another leader who was a short, very average looking woman, a medical doctor, put it well: "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in; their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

The Duke research is important because it is a red flag that we all, and that means all of us, have to let go of past conditioning that says big, strong, strapping men are the ones we can count on. We can't.

Who we can count on are the men (and women) who are willing to ask the deeper questions and sit still to search for answers that will help this weary planet out of the toxic mess it is in.

No plastic surgeon, those who so often send their lives creating illusion can help give someone presence. Presence has to be worked for; it is about self awareness, caring, and a commitment to something bigger than one's own ego.

The big question is "How do you know a man of presence, of integrity when you meet him (or her)? Ah, that would be research worth studying!

Dr. Sylvia Lafair, Author, Leadership Educator, Executive Coach for over 30 years is an authority on leadership and workplace relationships. She is President of Creative Energy Options, Inc. Visit www.ceoptions.com and www.sylvialafair.com

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