Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Act, and Think Like a Leader, by Dianna Booher


Berrett-Koehler Publishers, ISBN 9781609940119, October 2011

Creating Personal Presence covers much the same territory as Michelle Lederman's The 11 Laws of Likability, but not, I fear, in as engaging a manner, or with the same thoughtfulness and attention to detail. There's still very good advice and excellent pointers here, and a different emphasis and viewpoint that may be helpful for some readers.

Divided into four categories, Look, Act, Talk, and Think, Booher offers practical advice and illustrative anecdotes from her experience both personally and with clients, on how to present yourself more effectively, communicate more clearly, and be more successful. Dress, gestures, vocal mannerisms, courtesy, and integrity are all covered, with specifics and examples. Booher begins by saying, and emphasizes throughout, that no matter where you are in terms of personal presence right now, you can take steps to make improvements and become more effective. A link to Booher's self-assessment test is provided, to help readers get started.


What I found a little off-putting was the sense, maybe unjustified, that this is all about getting ahead in business, whereas Lederman's book is more about being more effective in pursuing your goals. It's a subtle but important difference. I was slightly bemused to see a quote from Donald Trump, a "businessman" who has gone bankrupt three times and has lately been making a clown of himself in presidential politics, used as one of the chapter introductory quotes. The reference to Barack Obama's inauguration in 2008 is just careless, the kind of carelessness that doesn't contribute to personal presence, and either Booher or a copy-editor should have caught that. The unqualified recommendation that everyone needs to have an individually tailored business suit reflects the unexamined assumption that everyone reading the book is working within a traditional business setting. For an animal shelter, yes, it's a good thing if the director and other senior officers have really good suits for when they are representing the shelter to potential donors; tailored suits do not, however, have much place in walking dogs or cleaning cat boxes. In that setting, you'll cut a much more professional image in well-fitting jeans and a good, flattering, casual top, with practical footwear. This is an area where Lederman's book seemed to me to be more practical and aimed at a wider audience.

Nevertheless, there's excellent advice here, and this book may be more accessible and useful to some readers than Lederman's, precisely because of the very things I find a bit off-putting.

View the book trailer: