Stature is a funny thing

Stature is a funny thing

Stature is a funny thing

Sometimes mistakenly called Executive Presence, Stature is a tricky subject to understand and an even tougher one to master. Business leaders rely on stature to energise their teams. Stick and carrot are failed tools for motivating people. Every politician knows that his stature will determine, to as much as 50%, his future in office. Undermining the opposition’s stature is why politics is seen as a dirty game. But all’s fair in love and war.

Because so much of stature involves confidence it is sensitive to quite nuanced, almost imperceptible, twists. Apparent lack of confidence can mask clear thinking, decisiveness and strong command of a situation. The authority of the person exhibiting this is, however, undermined by what appears to be the case. In a paradoxical way, over-confidence of the Trump sort, is a clear indication of uncertainty and insecurity. Bullies always lack stature.

In the way we are discussing it stature has little to do with physical appearance. Height is an advantage when commanding people simply because they can see you better. If you lack that attribute you can always do what Field Marshal Montgomery did – stand on a soap box.
His bravado in declaring and tackling his vertical challenge added to his stature.

Office confers stature but less than it used to and with a risk that if you don’t live up to it you will lose respect. The two most recent Popes demonstrated this admirably. Pope Benedict, a physically reasonably commanding figure, lost respect because he was weak in dealings with his unruly clerics. Pope Francis exhibits such obvious humility that he is seen to have great stature precisely for having dropped many of the grand badges of papal office.

You cannot teach stature as a concept but you can learn some elements of it. Along with several others I was once taught how to walk into a room by former Mariinsky Prima Ballerina Tamara Karsavina. It is a lesson I have never forgotten. Presence (executive or not) is a feature of stature. It is seen in the performance of great artists, the speeches of world politicians. Churchill’s calls to arms in WWII are still deferentially mimicked today.

True modesty – but absolutely not false modesty – is the root of stature. Knowing what you are good at and what not, and making no pretence of it, leads to a natural stature that everyone will admire. And, of course, not particularly wanting to be admired enhances it considerably. Some mild, good-humoured self-deprecation also eases the credibility strain. Those who take themselves too seriously invariably end up being laughing-stocks.

Beware of trying to undermine another’s stature with ‘alternative news’ and falsehoods. You can certainly do a lot of damage just as you can with a gun or machete. Those who live by them generally die by them too. And they do not die with honour but rather in disgrace. In a slander match it is seldom the initiator of the slander who wins.

There is an organisation called Dignitas. It assists people who want to end their lives for reasons that are acceptable to them and to society generally. Its aim is a dignified death. It is my opinion that the wish for a dignified death in certain circumstances is wholly acceptable. To justify it I think we first need to help people to lead dignified lives.

Or, as I would put it, lives of stature.