Caroline Newns Consulting

The Essence of Style

Written by: Caroline Newns

I enjoy BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’, a programme which ‘offers a female perspective on the world’. I usually listen via pod cast and I’ve gasped, laughed and cried over the years, a testament to the issues covered and the quality of broadcasting.

The voices of Jenni Murray, Jane Garvey and (late-night) Lauren Laverne possess a timbre which suits me.

Recently, whilst driving to a client meeting, I tuned into ‘Woman’s Hour’, delighted to be listening ‘live’. To my surprise, Gemma Cairney’s renowned personality filled my car.

Gemma has been described as having ‘a larger-than-life character, a big heart, a voice to match and an irresistible dirty laugh’. She is, primarily, a Radio1 presenter and has broken ground with ‘The Surgery’ on Wednesday evenings. Much like Jenni Murray, Jane et al, she has a particular style.

I like Gemma Cairney. She is talented and engaging. With two teenage boys, I am no stranger to undiluted energy. I also have good friends across a variety of generations.

BBC Radio 4 ‘Woman’s Hour’ is aiming to attract a ‘younger woman listener’ demographic. Yet after a good while of listening to Gemma chatting and interviewing her guests about teenage ‘coming of age’ in the 1990s (by which time I had acquired fifteen years’ work experience and started my own consultancy practice), I turned off the radio.
In any environment, style is an incredibly personal attribute. In a past life I was a speech writer, assuming the verbal personality and nuance of another. I quickly appreciated that style extends beyond loquence. It is about the whole person, their distinctiveness, often quite separate from the message being sent.

Style must resonate with a current as well as a future audience – a challenge not only for ‘Woman’s Hour’ but for business leaders too.

Within an organisation, a Leader’s style is a combination of what he or she says, how they say it and what they actually do. Stakeholders such as employees, investors, suppliers or customers, are alert to incongruence.

Most of my client leaders can describe textbook leadership styles but the following questions get to the heart of the matter:

  • How do you understand your staff (especially if you rarely set foot out of your office or go ‘on the road’ with your team)?
  • How do you commit to delivering customer expectation (yet avoid ‘temperature checking’ the same network of ‘buddy’ customers)?
  • How do you demonstrate organisational values (those you most likely signed off) and require your senior team to do likewise?
  • How are you taking leadership responsibility sufficiently seriously, protecting company assets and staff through due diligence and honest dealings?

Having worked alongside some of the finest Leaders, they know that it is not what they will be remembered for but how they will be remembered.

This is the ‘essence of style’ and a true legacy.