Skill vs charisma
Tonight I made the comment to some friends that one day I’d like to be a speech writer. It’s not exactly a life long dream, but since I’ve started writing again I’ve been reminded how much I enjoy crafting a thought into something convincing or provoking. The idea of being able to take this from written form into spoken word is really interesting to me and seems like a good challenge.
My announcement was met by a comment from my friend Alex: “I hate how people can do that”.
As this wasn’t exactly the “yeah girl, go get ‘em” one might expect, I probed a bit into what he meant.
Alex went on to explain that he is tired of bluffing, or being able to mask up true skill or fact by simply being able to write or say something with conviction.
He referenced journalists who twist the truth and mislead the public, and politicians’ stirring rally cries which are so often followed by poor delivery. He felt like there was a vanity layer that existed between true ability and what people project.
Alex was basically saying that often the people who really deserve reward are those without the glamorous personal brand. They’re the ones who keep things ticking over, but lack in the ability to show it or claim it.
To a certain degree, I couldn’t fault his logic. There is something undeniably unjust about someone who can rise through the ranks because they have convincing in-person, written or spoken abilities, but none of the foundations to substantiate them. It doesn’t seem fair to those working behind the scenes that these skills equate to reward or recognition.
However, when I mulled it over a bit I realised that neither extreme can win out in the end.
If we lived in a society where facts ruled and subjectivity never came into the picture, perhaps having all the smarts in the world would be enough.
If we lived in a society where image was everything and a powerful display of empathy was all it took to win confidence and support from others, perhaps those with the best personal brand would rule.
However, neither are the reality we exist in.
Facts and skills aren’t enough because biologically people gravitate towards personable people. And similarly, charisma isn’t enough because people need delivery on promise to substantiate loyalty.
Success lies in the ability to balance both skill and self promotion. One without the other will eventually fade out.
While it may seem irrational, and probably is, it’s the way humans are programmed to respond on an emotional and pragmatic level. So to at least be aware of it seems like a good starting point. It means we can find the areas we each may need to work on to better the way our work is perceived either in substance or delivery, ultimately giving us a more just recognition.