I’m an award winning leadership coach, qualified in industrial and organisational psychology but I also trained in reading psychology.
Here’s Forbes Leadership Twitter banner. Forbes is fine company and you should follow them @ForbesLeaders
but here’s what’s wrong with the photo in their Twitter banner.
1. It’s a stock shot.
Forbes should use real people not actors or models. None of these actors look like leaders even they they are trying hard to. Humans can read body language and even micro-movements and these guys are not walking like they are leaders.As an exercise get up right now and walk like a leader.
I only use real people in my marketing. Real customers. Real leaders stand like real leaders. You can’t fake it. Its not just the body, its the posture and the face. Eye contact for example.
2. It defies reading gravity
Reading gravity is a simple concept. We read left to right in the Western World. This banner reads right to left – essentially backwards. They are walking from right to left and the woman is pointing to the left, so essentially we are going the wrong way.
We all have a temporal clock in our head and if you ask people to point to the past – facing us – most people put the past behind them or to their right (or our left). So this banner says we are going backwards into the past.
The woman leader basically wants us to go back to the past and she is emphatic. If that is intentional then no problem. Then we have to create a context like tradition. Jack Daniels is firmly anchored in its 150 year old history and the images are from the last 150 years. But these guys are dressed contemporarily and in the open field somewhere. If they were on Wall Street or at Congress it would make sense.
3. Gaps and stragglers
Watch the Mens or Womens Marathon this Olympic Games or any Olympic Games. The leaders cluster to the front – usually about 5-6 runners. The rest of the pack are also-rans.
The clustering in this shot shows a woman leading – nothing at all wrong with that – and in this case PC; a gap … and one guy following. The guys posture says, “You want me to go where?” Look at any leadership and follower shots and the true believers stick like glue to the leader. There is almost never ever a gap.
Then there’s another bigger gap … and then the rest of the followers. Again watch the Marathon at the Olympics. The clustering is always a) the leaders, b) the chasers trying to catch the leaders and c) the also-rans and d) the stragglers. Always.
The leaders bunch together at the front … the stragglers always to the back.
The third guy is actually looking back (deferring) to the three older guys.
I hate to say it but our hardwiring makes older men more salient in a shot about leadership for no other reason that a million years of programming.
Interestingly the pack order here is woman (again nothing wrong there), two young guys; and the three older men. The bald guy looks most like the leader, but he is the last in order.
In essence this banner says too many people are hanging back from the leader. In other words they are reluctant to follow. As a leader she is turned telling us to go ‘This way’ and the troops are dragging their feet.
The more I looked at this photo the more it began to resemble people going to a funeral – we have to go, but we are reluctant. The woman could be saying, “The funeral service is over here.” So in fact, the woman may not be the leader at all.
4. There are no other women
Yes she is power dressing and yes she has directive gestures but its the gestures in consistent with a leader. She looks more like an usher.
And where are they going, anyway, with one woman? It has a a slight creepiness to it.
And by the way, where are the other women? Does this subconsciously portray the ratio managerial imbalance of women/men leaders?
5. Pointing where, no eye contact and our in-the-bushes perspective
Lastly, we look to wherever people point or look. What is she pointing at? We don’t know.
With leadership its always about connection. And we always look at the eyes but there is no eye contact here. They are all oblivious to our presence. So there is a huge disconnect from the reader.
And our perspective is lower. They are high up on a hill and we are down low. So it appears like we are hiding in the bushes in ambush … or lurking like spies.
Can we really read all that into one photo? I hate to say it but yes. Forbes is a reputable company but this image is wrong for too many reasons.
What does this mean to you?
One picture is worth a thousand words so select banner images carefully.