‘Swagger’ is one of pop culture’s words of the moment right now. You heard it throughout the X-Factor and ‘Got To Dance’ (the best produced television talent show there is) series. I first heard it talked out in Microsoft as the theme to a summit keynote by Bob Kelly exhorting us to exhibit it more (actually, Microsoft is rather swagger-heavy in its DNA).

But as so many dropped wannabees have learned, despite their buoyant charm, it’s no more just about Swagger alone than Leadership is just about inspiring vision and confident communication. The good judges on these shows will also talk about fundamentals like ‘Technique’ and ‘Dancability’. The substance of their art. The winning artists balance both ‘Swagger’ and ‘Substance’. Swagger without substance is flamboyant strutting. Substance without swagger is tedious mechanics.

Seth-urday’s maven Seth Godin talks about this balance in his own post on Swagger

  • “One way that marketers (of any stripe) make an impact is by displaying confidence. Consumers figure that if a marketer is confident in their offering, they ought to be confident in the marketer as return. We often assume that confidence means that something big is on offer. The problem with swagger is that if you’re the swaggering marketer, you might run into a competitor with even more swagger than you. When that happens, it’s time to show your cards, the justification for your confidence. And if you don’t deliver, you’ve done nothing but disappoint the person who believed in you. Substance without swagger slows you down. But swagger without substance can be fatal. Right now, we’re seeing more swagger than ever—but it’s rarely accompanied by an increase in substance…The rule is simple: it’s essential to act the part. And it’s even more important for it to be real.”

Leaders have swagger, Managers have substance. Both together have the X-Factor.