Leadership, Image and Style: the Politics of Persuasion
Held on Monday 11th May 2009
In this outstanding inaugural lecture, Professor Gaffney focused on his interest in what might be glibly described as ‘personality politics’.
While many of us would maintain that political success and failure ought to be down to more than looks or charisma or, in some cases, gender, it is hard in all honesty to deny the role of these characteristics in determining the popularity, or otherwise, of some key figures from the past seventy years or so.
From the chivalric persona of de Gaulle to the linguistic prowess of Churchill, via the quasi-religious looks and status of Che Guevara, John demonstrated the importance of image and style in galvanising a country in difficult times, around a particular leader.
In elections too, image plays a role. The natural charisma and elegance and yes, the good looks, of Barack Obama have generated optimism unseen in the US for many years, despite the very obvious economic and environmental challenges the country faces. By contrast, John proposed that gender and image greatly affected Segolene Royal’s chances of success in the last French Presidential elections. One might also add, tongue in cheek, that image may prove to have a detrimental impact on Prime Minister Brown’s prospects in twelve months time!
It would be wrong to suggest that these factors are predominant in determining success or failure, but in a society where increasing numbers of people are detached from the political process, one can not completely dismiss the benefit of an easy manner, a winning smile, or a pertinent sound bite.
I would encourage anybody interested in leadership and image to view the inaugural lecture online. I am sure you will find it fascinating and entertaining. You will also find previous inaugural lectures from the last two years.
Words by Chris Harrison