Show and Tell Your Leadership

Earlier this year, I was lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Australia for the World Cup Cricket.  Having grown up in India where cricket is religion, this was one of those memorable life time opportunities.  Being the ardent cricket fan, I went online and ordered a few India team jerseys to prepare for my trip. I could not resist wearing the Indian colors as I began my journey.  Little did I realize the impact I was having on people around me. The conversations started flowing with everyone around me.  My taxi driver in Singapore had a few questions to ask about cricket.  At the check in counter, people wished me well for the success of the Indian team.  I was the last to board my flight, as I walked in, I could see smiles, some smirks and small conversations start amongst fellow passengers initiated purely because of the Indian team jersey that I was wearing.  I was enjoying this new found stardom.  I felt as if I was one of India’s famed cricketers.  Just by wearing an India team jersey I had attracted so much attention and managed to create some buzz.  On landing in Sydney, I lined up at the immigration counter.  I can never forget what the Australian immigration officer remarked to me.  He said, in jest ofcourse, that he had to refuse entry to me as there were already too many Indians in Sydney that week.

I had stumbled upon a very important lesson in leadership. Our physical persona is a very valuable asset to be leveraged to communicate everything about us.  Through my Indian team jersey, I was communicating my passion for cricket and representing the entire country of India.  What we wear everyday communicates so much about what we stand for, our values, beliefs and our aspirations.  Leadership is all about “Show and Tell” and most of us do not do justice in using our physical persona to communicate everything we stand for.

As we look around, there are many examples of people who have demonstrated their leadership, their uniqueness through their physical persona.  Mahatma Gandhi is the first name that comes to me.  He communicated his simplicity through the simple loin dhoti that he clad around himself.  Steve Jobs, choose to communicate his thinking about minimalism, simplification through his attire.  He always wore his turtle next T-shirt, jeans and sports sneakers.  Donald Trump communicates his no nonsense approach to business with his immaculate dressing style.  You will be hard pressed to find any picture of Donald Trump without his trademark suit and bright ties.

Show and Tell also goes beyond just the physical persona.  It is also how we conduct ourselves, how we communicate, the way we respond, how we keep our desks, etc.  Integrating our leadership style with the way we carry ourselves could accelerate our ability to communicate effectively our values and beliefs with the world.

Needless to say, after the semi-final loss to Australia in the cricket WorldCup, the journey back was quite painful.  My friends at the Australian immigration officers were quick to ask why I cut short my trip and was returning home earlier than planned.

Would love to hear your views on this and importantly learn about other examples of leaders who “Show and Tell” very well.  Theophilus said, “The Clothes do not make the Man.  Its the Man that makes the clothes.”  But then Mark Twain said “Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society”.

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