The Cult of Personality

It used to be that the stereotype of the salesman was that of the smooth, slick, fast-talking used car salesman.  The reason was that it worked.  People were drawn to someone who was outgoing, aggressive, and made a lot of promises.  In recent years, the image of the salesman has changed somewhat, or at least I thought so.  People wised up a bit, and realized that it wasn’t how loudly or authoritatively someone talked, but instead, there was a trend toward being natural and authentic.  So much so, in fact, that salespeople, as well as broadcasters, were taught to talk naturally, as if you’re talking to someone, more so than to just shout.

But sometimes, it still seems like it’s the person who uses the traditional sales approach, or more accurately, has a loud or outgoing personality, who flourishes, especially for people who aren’t quite sure what they are looking for and are therefore looking for a figure of authority.  You know the type – the person who can dazzle you with a speech and make your eyes glaze over (“Wow – this person really knows what he’s talking about.”).  Then at the end of the speech, you don’t remember what was said, just that it was said in an authoritative way.  They can do a Powerpoint presentation but aren’t always the most effective at getting the job done.  But it’s comforting to have a person tell you what you need to do.

We see the love of this personality in sports.  Look at the Brett Favre phenomenon.  He’s outgoing and emotional, so the fans and media love him.  But as good as he is, he only has one championship in a nearly 20-year career.  He also is a mistake-prone quarterback, throwing more interceptions than anyone in NFL history.

Look at tennis.  Who do you think the casual fan would say is was the best tennis player out of this group:  Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Stephan Edberg, or Boris Becker?  Hands down, people would say McEnroe, despite the fact that all of the players listed won between 6 and 8 Grand Slam championships.  It’s McEnroe’s personality – he made a lot of noise and people remember that.

I’m not saying that all loud people lack authenticity, or that all laid back people are genuine.  I’ll I’m saying is don’t be fooled by the person who talks with an air of authority without authenticity.  Don’t overlook the person who is down to earth, which is easy to do if your head is in the clouds.

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