There is an ever-growing list of executive coaches, authors and professors who claim to have the secret to turn anyone into a leader. They offer body language tips to make you appear more authentic, communication skills so you’ll seem more likable and personal habits to make you more productive.
You’re better off ignoring all that nonsense. The only thing that matters in business is being the best at what you do, not how you look and sound doing it.
Look at it this way. It’s a competitive world. If you think you can skate by just looking and acting the part, you’re in for a rude awakening. If you don’t deliver results, I don’t care what your body language says; nobody’s going to pay you big bucks to run anything.
A Wall Street Journal piece actually says that nonverbal communication can speak volumes about whether you’re a leader or not. The article tells you how to strike the right balance of power and authority with warmth and empathy by, get this, keeping your head straight, smiling sparingly and “steepling” with your hands.
Steepling with your hands? Are you kidding me?
Some of the most talented CEOs I’ve ever worked with were painfully shy introverts who could put you to sleep better than Ambien. Others were obsessive compulsive maniacal control freaks. Either way, they were great at their jobs. They were tenacious. They were brilliant. And they delivered when it counted.
Meanwhile, the hands-down worst CEO I’ve ever worked with was the most polished of the bunch. He was trained at a big company and had all the requisite pomposity to prove it. He tried his hand running countless smaller companies and failed miserably. As they say in Texas, he was all hat, no cattle.
Another article talks about the importance of likability at work. Apparently, “making sure you come across as authentic and as someone who can be trusted” by behaving “in a way that feels natural and comfortable” makes you likable. Am I the only one who sees the irony in faking behavior to appear authentic? You just can’t make this stuff up.
If you’re a politician, motivational speaker or talk-show host, façade matters. In the business world, not so much.
I don’t care if you aspire to be a marketing god, a talent expert, a finance wiz or a technology geek. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business owner, a startup founder, a venture capitalist or an executive in an S&P 500 company. Success in business is about actions and results, not appearances.
As your career progresses, you’ll find all sorts of factors that play a role in the outcome. And you won’t find surface qualities among them. Instead of window dressing, focus on developing your expertise. Building relationships. Serving the customer. Coming up with innovative solutions to big problems. Questioning the status quo. Achieving a sense of balance so you know when to act decisively and when to listen quietly.
Those are the factors that matter. You don’t measure success by how people perceive you, but by the results you actually deliver to your stakeholders.
Your customers expect you to meet your commitments and exceed their expectations. Your employees want to feel a sense of purpose, to be challenged to do their best work and to be rewarded for their accomplishments. And your shareholders want you to achieve your operating goals and provide a solid return on investment.
Those are the results that matter. And you can achieve them with or without being the perfect verbal or nonverbal communicator.
The best leaders are those who look and behave the same on the outside as they feel on the inside. They are exactly who they hold themselves out to be. They are simply their own genuine selves – flaws, imperfections, idiosyncrasies and all. And they meet the needs of their stakeholders and deliver the goods. That’s what really matters.
Screenshot of T-Mobile CEO John Legere from YouTube
A version of this originally appeared at foxbusiness.com.