How Donald is trumping Hillary in the ultimate leadership race

As I sit in the airport lounge waiting to head home from the US, there is yet more analysis of Clinton and Trump being broadcast ahead of the final presidential debate which takes place tonight. The election is a hot topic which has been evident everywhere we have visited on our trip and a regular topic of conversation as we’ve travelled around Massachusetts.
In terms of the analysis, I have been most interested in the discussion around non-verbal communication and what that means for the leadership contest. How these candidates present themselves is probably even more important than the policy positions they are trying to promote. Conversely, women are even more likely to be subject to analysis on these terms, judged not only on what they say but also what they wear and how they come across.

So what can we say about Clinton and Trump from their performance within these debates?

Watching the third and final debate, what struck me first was the way they try to convey power and authority. As I watched them both at their lecterns, it brought to mind a TED talk I saw a while back by Amy Cuddy which explains how the power pose can increase testosterone. What I’ve noticed since then is that men tend to naturally take a bigger position when they speak. They might put their hands on their hips or elbow on the chair next to them so they take up more space. On the other hand, women quite often remain quite small with their hands on their lap and their legs crossed.

Watching the debates, I noticed exactly this.  Trump is already much bigger that Clinton and he builds on this by holding on to either side of the lectern which communicates strength and power. Clinton has her arms in side the lectern and hands together. What I get from her stance is more of a feeling of grounding. She is already smaller and stands steady and confident as she tries to communicate that she is reliable and grounded.

Commentators in the US are saying that Clinton isn’t doing well when it comes to authenticity. Watching her in action, I can see why this is that case. She comes across as a stateswoman – immaculately groomed and well polished with an air of constant calm and serenity. This is next to Trump with his crazy hair and ridiculous facial expressions which makes her look like she is wearing a mask to hide what she truly feels.

She may look presidential but this doesn’t appeal to many voters who have had enough of politicians who they believe tell lies and waste public money. Trump on the other hand isn’t afraid to make outrageous statements and even though he may not always have his facts straight, he shares his views with such passion and conviction, he gets away with it because people are currently seeming to prefer candidates who have no care for political correctness rather than those who toe the line.

From the rise of UKIP in Britain, the shock EU referendum result and now the very real possibility that Trump could become the next President of the United States, it is very clear that people want something different. Fed up with the political establishment telling them what to do and making decisions they don’t agree with, voters are starting to take a stand.

What the outcome will be of this next election, no-one can be quite sure but we do know that the world will be watching on November 8th to see what happens next. 

You might also be interested in: Authenticity and believing what you say 

Listen hard, even to what they are not saying

Watching a TED talk on listening by William Ury has reinforced something I realised a few years ago which is crucial for successfully leading others. That is that you need to listen. Really hard. Especially to the things they are not saying.

It’s a position I came to after I’d had problems with a member of the team. Basically, it came down to not understanding each other and having a difference of approach. This individual (who we shall call Abby) wanted to get involved with drafting consultation responses within the policy and research team which I led. Of course, I was happy for Abby to get involved and duly provided the details of an open consultation that we needed to respond to so that she could get started.

When I fed back on the draft, I added thoughts and comments for consideration in the way that I did for all of the team. This appeared to create a block which meant the second draft was slow to materialise. Abby didn’t explain to me why there was a problem but in listening extra hard to what she was saying to me and considering what might be creating a difficulty, I came to the conclusion that the way I provided feedback on the draft confused her. After that, I changed my approach, ensuring that it was clear what she needed to do rather than providing a challenge and allowing her to decide how to address it.

So it was then I realised the importance of listening. To the words, to the body language and to the underlying messages. Even the silence tells you something if you really want to hear it.

The next thing I learnt which is equally important, is that when we listen, we should listen to understand. That might sound obvious but actually, most of the time, we listen to respond. So often we’re not really listening at all but while someone is speaking to us, we are thinking about what we are going to say next. When we stop listening to respond and start listening to understand, we begin really listening. This approach requires us to ask questions about what is being said so that we can understand it fully. Ultimately, when we do this, the speaker feels like you care about what they are saying and that you have made the effort to understand.

On a training course once, I remember being asked to practice active listening and finding that it is a really difficult thing to do. We think that listening comes naturally but in fact, it’s something that really needs practice. For me it’s been a technique that I have tried to adopt. It doesn’t come naturally, it’s something I have to practice on a daily basis. As Ury says in his talk, listening is crucial for relationships and is the reason that many break down. Often we say it’s because we didn’t talk but more to the point, it’s that we didn’t listen properly. He asks ‘if we listened more what difference would it make?’. So that’s the challenge for us all as leaders (and for all relationships). Practice the art of listening and enjoy the benefits I know it will bring for you.

The full video of The Power of Listening, by William Ury for TEDx San Diego is available here:

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