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Authenticity, Vulnerability & Real Power

“The relationship between authenticity, vulnerability, and real power is critically intertwined.”

Comment from Dan during a conversation with brand strategist, Brad Collins, as they watch Vice President Joe Biden talking about Health Care Reform on a YouTube video late in 2009.

Brad Collins: I’m curious. Does Biden need to be standing on stage while the guy is introducing him? Wouldn’t he have more impact if he simply waited to be introduced and then came out to the applause?
Dan Sapp: Probably. Because doing it this way (standing to the side of the stage, hands clasped in front, looking at the ground), Biden is forced to establish what feels like a false camaraderie with guy introducing him, where there is probably no relationship at all. I think authenticity is as important as humility both for heads of state as well as for heads of organizations. These guys have tremendous “position power,” and there’s nothing wrong with owning that power and not trying to act like “I’m just one guys.” Because they’re not. It’s not true, and it doesn’t feel authentic.
Brad Collins:Which is the “knock” you hear on Joe Biden: people think he is reaching for that “everyday-Joe-kind-of-thing,” which doesn’t seem real for him.
Dan Sapp: For the record, I’m a big fan of the Obama administration, and Joe Biden is a commanding, comfortable, effective communicator. But, as a political communicator, you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. If you are too unflappable, you are “slick,” but if you are less than perfect, you get pilloried as a bumbling idiot. On top of that is the mythology that everyone is supposed to be from a log cabin in Illinois, born humbly and self-educated, but through their own tenacity, hard-work, and high moral fiber, they have somehow risen above. Of course, we all know in most cases it’s not usually true. So, I think what happens is that when really powerful people try to “awe shucks” too much in the name of humility, they rob themselves of their authenticity. And, authenticity is where real power and influence come from, because real authenticity is inherently vulnerable. The trick is to be comfortable with that vulnerability. Comfort with vulnerability isn’t wimpy. It‘s open, accessible, and connected. The willingness to express your genuine comfort as a “big target” speaks reams about your inherent authority. It is compelling and extraordinarily influential. The relationship between authenticity, vulnerability, and real power is critically intertwined. If I were working with Vice President Biden, as good as he already is, I would help him to own his power in a more comfortable, less defended, more vulnerable way.

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