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Leadership Is Largely Optics

Optics, a scientific term co-opted by the corporate world, refers to looks.  Leadership optics have an enormous effect on the demeanor of followers.  People are much more likely to pay attention to a leader’s body language, facial expressions and clothing style than those of his or her assistants.  Curious crowds gather by the thousands along the route of a presidential motorcade simply to see their leader.

In crisis moments, anxious times or corporate wars, a good leader displays a “take charge” attitude.  When the leader shows up, a calming influence prevails, and it’s more than words. Great speeches, in fact, have fallen flat due to poor optics.  Is it said that in 1960, Jack Kennedy won the first ever television presidential debate despite the superior performance of his opponent, Richard Nixon.  The difference was the appearance of the two men.  Noticeable beads of sweat formed on Nixon’s brow, making him look nervous and uncomfortable.  Kennedy, on the other hand, appeared “calm and confident,” according to TIME Magazine.  It is said that JFK won the election that night.

Spiritual leadership, of course, is far more than optics.  In our visual age, however, a leader cannot afford to ignore the way he or she appears.  Put inner trepidation aside.  Moses before Pharaoh, David before Goliath, Gideon before the Midianites, Paul before Agrippa, Peter before Herod—all of them found the strength in God to face down the opposition. 

People are watching.  They will feed off your strength if they can only see it.

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