Are You About Substance or Style?

Substance and Style are not mutually exclusive. The majority of us, however, like with most binary characteristics, want a healthy blend as ideal. Our drives tend to push us to a natural side one more than the other but both sides and many blends can be successful. Depending on your role it may be that style in how things get done is more important whereas some roles require substantive depth despite the delivery. How does one recognize where their strength is, how to improve and when to favor or develop which?

While many traits can be taught we all bring instincts to this mix. Understanding ourselves and then assessing what better aids a situation usually happens without time to strategize or plan, more by reflex. There are also superficial tells. How important are your presentation style, your dress, your conscious body language signals? How focused are you on getting to the heart of a matter, telling it like it is, more concerned about expressing truth than influencing the feelings? How do you judge which trait to emphasize in a given situation? Most telling, how able are you to show either and both?

If giving a presentation are you thinking more about how you will look and how you will say things or are you more concerned with the factual significance and detail in every slide? When asked a tough question, or one it might be assumed you should answer, are you more likely to talk around an answer than to suggest you don’t know? Do you think that the truth is more important than feelings? Are you worried about how people see you or hear you? Do you believe there’s a right way to influence any situation?

How secure you are in your own sense of style is linked to how connected you feel to the substance of situations. Your style will usually be displayed based on how substantive a person you are just as your substance will be influence by how self-conscious you are about how you, and your style, will be perceived by others.

Both skills are important to leaders but a strength in one should not be an excuse for a lacking in the other. An example is to consider how much the preceding questions effected you, how did you see yourself in the answers. Clues to the more important reality, the perception by others, can be found in how you considered your answers relative to how they were significant to anyone else. Confusing? Consider giving others news, bad or good. Do you think first about how that news will reflect on how you are perceived? Will you get credit or blame or do you consider how depth or style will impact the ones receiving the news?

The best focus for a leader is to be sure they respect the substance they can inform and also to see past styles they may not love in others who provide insight or information. Your style is defined by its consistency, that is likely to be better accepted by those with whom you confer or report to or who report to you. The instinct you might want to attempt to hone is to focus on how situations impact others. In other words, your empathy is your best key to effective style along with honesty. That honesty is best served when it is informed with depth, knowledge, and perception and an ability to understand how you will impact others.

Sometimes being a success, whether worker bee or king of the hill, is served by being a good person first. One who considers others, understands or discovers complexity in situations, demonstrates patience and honesty. That does not mean one must be mechanical or predictable, when emotion is strong it deserves to be displayed, not untethered or threatening but honest enough to relay the message with control and sincerity. Then next time you find yourself on the spot or reflecting on how you react consider if your instinct led you down the substance or style path. Neither is a one way street nor a dead end and developing your personal brand means working on the balance and the honesty of both.

©2018 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For more BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow Tom @TomFoxTrainer, on LinkedIn or at

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