Authenticity in the age of Donald Trump

I was talking to a friend this week about her problems at work, and the value of seeing each situation as a learning experience – no matter how difficult the experience is to stomach.

In that vein, here’s a lesson I learned from the first Donald and Hilary debate on transparency and leadership: how you communicate matters like never before.

Yes, what you say still matters too, as shown by the frenzy of fact checking after this debate. Yet, as Art of the Lie in the Economist recently highlighted, audiences are increasingly turning to their inner bullshit meters, or those of their friends. The result? Feelings are overtaking facts “more freely and with less resistance.”

I was biking home when the debate started. Throwing in my ear buds, my mind kept turning to the gasping and spitting sounds that were coming from Donald as I threaded the evening traffic. When I got home and turned on the computer, I could feel my shoulders tense at one of Hilary’s smile. The next day I saw that a New York Times reporter had watched the debate on mute just to see how the candidates movements would influence his judgment.

Personal branding gurus, leadership coaches and others have been talking about the power of nonverbal communication for years. Yet as media savvy continues to grow, corporate leaders have to go beyond striking the right poses at the right times, to making sure those  poses are authentic with  who they are as people. If not, their efforts can fall flat, as heard in the first post-debate critique of Hilary’s “canned” responses.

In fact, Donald’s success shows just how much authenticity in communications now means in a world soaked in data-driven branding. A growing number of people are willing to overlook the facts – and apparently a lot of them – if what they are saying feels and looks possible. Donald’s drop in the polls after the debate shows there might still be limits, but it’s getting more and more critical to do the long and hard work of discovering who you, or your company, really are and letting that be part of what you say, in every way.

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