"Smile and the whole world smiles with you" was an adage that my grandfather loved to quote, especially when taking someone's picture. As a newspaperman in the 1920s and 1930s, my grandfather worked for big city dailies until he started his own paper. He knew the value of pictures and as an entrepreneur he knew that paying customers, either as readers or advertisers, wanted to see themselves look good. It was a lesson that he took with him to public relations, and watching my grandfather work a crowd was a lesson in courtesy, manners and you guessed it, big smiles. Smiling can be a valuable leadership trait; it demonstrates a capacity for emotion that all of us want to see in someone in charge.
Smiles Connect People
This lesson came home to me as I was watching a community college president on television. The segment began with footage of Christine Johnson of Denver Community College speaking at commencement; her smile was radiant. That same smile shone albeit with less wattage as she was interviewed about budget cutbacks at her school. At first it may have seemed irreverent of Dr. Johnson to be smiling, but in reality it was exactly the right thing to do.
Her words indicated understanding of the situation; her smile communicated her warmth and sincerity. Her bearing convinced me, just from watching her on television; this was a leader that students, faculty and community respected. And to prove the power of her smile, the program concluded with a piece of good news: no budget cuts were planned for the coming year. Coincidence, yes, but it does demonstrate leaders who look on the bright side can effect positive change, not simply by smiling, but by maintaining a positive outlook as well as fighting for what they believe is right.
Smiling is a simple act. To paraphrase Lauren Bacall in the classic film, To Have and Have Not, "just part your lips and glow". In fact it's so simple that even CEOs can learn to do it. In truth many people in leadership positions forget to do it. Yet doing it is something that you will establish rapport with an individual, a group or an audience. And for that reason cracking a smile is worth doing. Here are some suggestions for using your smile to a leadership advantage.
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