Why Looking Like an Executive is a Bad, Bad Idea

mrmediatrainingI regularly get calls from executives who confide in me that they don’t think they come across as “executive” enough.

They’re concerned that their speeches don’t convey a strong-enough leadership quality and that their media interviews don’t look like the interviews they’ve seen other top executives giving.

When I hear them say that, I know that my biggest challenge as a trainer will be to convince them that they’re wrong. More on that, in a moment.

First, take a look at this fun video by talented impressionist Jim Meskimen, who does terrific imitations of 24 people in less than four minutes – everyone from George W. Bush to Morgan Freeman to George Clooney.

Why am I showing you that video? What struck me is that each of the 24 people he imitated have radically different styles – some dramatic and others dry, some energetic and others folksy.

But all of them were successful. If George Clooney had tried to act more like Jimmy Stewart, he wouldn’t have made it past The Facts of Life. If Arnold Schwarzenegger had tried to sound like Garrison Keillor, well, that would have just been surreal.

The same is true for public speakers who try to mimic somebody else’s style. It’s a mistake.

There is no singular style for what a public speaker or media guest should look like.

The goal with any form of communication is to make it fit your skill set. Instead of parroting the qualities that make other people so successful, look at the qualities that make you so special. An “executive” can look like thousands of different things: Steve Jobs doesn’t have the same style as Margaret Thatcher. Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the same style as Jack Welch. But all four people were wildly successful, using the style that made the most sense for them.

So stop trying to “look” a part. Begin emphasizing your own best qualities instead.