The dust is since settled from one of the most-watched trials of the century. With more than 335 million viewers tuning in to it, there are lessons for leaders. We have seen that words and actions can take on an entirely new life when taken out of context. We have seen the impact of personality on perceptions and decision-making. We’ve also seen how easy it can be for people to unite over someone or something they don’t like. The trial’s dynamics have taught us four valuable lessons as leaders.
The messenger matters
Amber Heard received a lot of criticism for not being likable at the stand. This affected her credibility and trustworthiness. The message is just as primary as the person it is being delivered from. It can be challenging to decide whether someone we trust is suitable for us. We don’t usually have enough evidence or experience with strangers to make this decision. We substitute trust for something more accessible, which is how much we like the person. Trust is usually built on a person’s likeability.
Women in leadership positions are often required to prove they are likable. A man & a woman can speak the same thing in the same tone. Usually, the woman is called “confident” while the man is “aggressive.”
Leaders can benefit from leadership coaching that focuses on authenticity. Authenticity can be coached. To better understand oneself, training traditionally includes a reflective assessment.
Context is important
Any leader’s words on film can be taken out of context and made into the next viral meme in a world that is constantly monitored by cameras. Many viewers took clips from the trial and added captions and sounds. TikTok created a ” trial.” Now, anyone can dissect anything and have it take over the world. It is easier than ever to lose control over the narrative.
Leaders should remember that not all town halls can be private, and not all emails are confidential. Google was the victim of hostile media after a famous memo about one employee’s opinion on gender diversity at work was published in the press. Although the employee was fired, it revealed uncomfortable details about Google’s internal diversity metrics and its gender pay gap.
Perform a post-mortem for critical announcements
Pre-mortems are a powerful debiasing tool that can temper overconfidence leaders may have about how they or their decision will be received. You are asked to look in the future to see all possible outcomes and work backward to find solutions to avoid them. This prospective hindsight allows teams to look at potential results and risks that may have been overlooked or not considered. A pre-mortem could have helped Heard’s legal teams spot potential risks like Depp’s charm and loyal fan base.
Every time wins
You won’t be in a position to shield your leaders from every misstep as an internal communications or public relations team. However, you can help them to improve their empathy, likeability, and authenticity. Your leader should be genuine. This will help them quickly regain the trust of their employees and the public.