Theresa May does not look like a woman enjoying her job.
With vipers posed to strike from all sides of her own party not to mention the opposition and the opposing EU negotiation team- her job is an impossible one.
But the problem is she looks worn-down and visibly shrunken since her appointment 17 months ago. At that point her self-belief was evident- she quite literally walked tall. Today her smiles are too quick to be genuine. She hunches forward as though the stress of the job has become a physical as well as a mental burden. Her posture has become almost concave.
This is not a trivial matter for a leader. Research by Professor Albert Mehrabian from the 1970s demonstrated that where there is a mismatch between a person’s words and their body language – body language wins every time. If you are a leader you need to look like a leader and leaders need confidence, optimism and personality. Mrs May looks like a supplicant awaiting her next beating.
Don’t get me wrong, in terms of media interviews – her answers are a master-class of avoiding traps. She sticks to her script whatever the provocation. Unlike her predecessor, she won’t be lulled into a false sense of security by a journalist “friend” into revealing her plans for retirement or caught off-guard on a microphone.
But unlike David Cameron or almost all current political leaders she lacks a leader’s poise and charisma. David Cameron looked relaxed and despite his privileged education, approachable and “knowable”. Even Angela Merkel has a twinkle in her eye.
The Labour party learnt the hard way about the importance of authenticity and positive body language. Neither Gordon Brown nor Ed Miliband possessed the common touch. In the last election the decision was taken to allow “Jeremy to be Jeremy”. Like him or loathe him –we know who he is and he is a man comfortable in his own skin.
For Mrs May to succeed she needs to reboot her mind-set. Even if she upsets a few people along the way, she must hammer out her vision with self-belief , conviction and optimism. And if she can’t believe in herself – how can we?