TTP: Your Waters Of The Day

Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson

Nearly all of POTUS 45’s term is past. It is in the past, as in before now. We don’t know if the adjective “first” or “one” will precede the word “term.” That’s not the choice I am asking you to make today. Settle down. Easy does it. I have something else in mind.

Clearly, among the fundamental leadership points raised in the experience of POTUS 45 is this—at what point does a leader’s style become a leader’s substance? Or if you prefer, try this—at any point does style become substance?

It’s a perennial question. It’s not at all unique to POTUS 45, POTUS 25, POTUS 5. It’s not even a political question because it’s valid to ask of any leader, yourself and myself included.

The uniqueness of POTUS 45 is the starkness of the point about style’s relationship to substance. You can’t get around, beyond, or above the thing. Perhaps also the uniqueness of POTUS 45 is the foundational and definitional role of style, the proportion of which it holds, the fraction of which it measures.

I wonder if we can say the following—the greater the fraction and measure of style in a leader, the more likely that leader’s style approaches the level of substance. The style is then on the verge of becoming substance, of taking over substance, of serving as substitute for substance.

I wonder.

Another thought and question. Clearly, again, I think we’d agree that style for POTUS 45 is affect and performance. I suspect that’s true for many of us. But more broadly, we need to ask of him and of us a further question—how much? How much of the affect and performative nature of style is a choice and option and how much is something else—is (our) (your) (my) identity there, too?

I sense our pursuit here is less a line and more a circle. I say that because if you get to a point where you say that a person’s identity is in fact completely seen in their style, then you turn in direction from put-on mask to rock-hard matter, from the artificial to the authentic.

A final thing occurs to me along this topic of style, substance, and POTUS 45. Much has been made of contrast. I’m referring to the contrast of POTUS 45’s style to predecessors and to a general feeling of tradition for POTUS as an institution, an office, a position. Both supporters and opponents alike will point to the contrast, but each group does so with a very different intent and purpose. I’m inclined to think that like so many aspects of leadership, the power of contrast has a shelf-life; after time passes, it tends to become something different than what it was. Think about that, will you? The power of time passing. Style isn’t immune to it, nor is the message made by whatever contrast it once presented.

Sherlock Holmes remarked to Dr. John Watson at one point in an adventure that they were struggling in “very deep waters.” I’d say that applies here as well.

You’re on The River in your life right now. So, at this moment, how run the waters?

Style or substance?

Thanks for reading. All the best, Dan

Comments

  1. Charles Berdel says

    Dan,

    Dan..I was about ready to respond. However, I want to make sure I understand the substance of your thesis. Would you mind saying more about the paragraph below, please?

    “I wonder if we can say the following—the greater the fraction and measure of style in a leader, the more likely that leader’s style approaches the level of substance. The style is then on the verge of becoming substance, of taking over substance, of serving as substitute for substance.”

    Thanks! CB

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