What’s in a Signature? A Leader’s Penmanship, Scrutinized

U.S. Treasury secretary nominee Jack Lew's odd signature has drawn interest this week, but does his John Hancock say anything about his leadership skills? And should you work on your own?

How often do you look at the signature on your dollar bills?

Well, imagine one day you noticed that the signature looked like this:


That’s the signature of President Obama’s pick for Treasury secretary, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew. If confirmed to head the Treasury, his signature would appear in the lower-righthand corner of all U.S. currency. (Obama joked about the signature when formally nominating Lew, saying, “When this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him.”)

He wouldn’t be the first Treasury secretary with an illegible signature. According to this interview on Marketplace.org, current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had to change his signature before signing those dollar bills. Will Lew have to create a new signature too,  as CNN Money predicts? More important, what does his signature say about him?

The science of signatures: Graphology is the analysis of a signature. According to its practitioners, a person’s signature is a reflection of his or her personality. “It’s really a springboard: a starting point from which you can enter into another human being’s mental and emotional space,” Sandra Fisher writes in her blog Graphology World. Fisher, who has been in the graphology field for 30 years, believes it’s a tool for personal growth. “There is always a new angle to explore, a new revelation to be discovered about someone’s personality or a glimpse into outlandish behavior that until now had failed to add up.”

Clues to leadership style: Handwriting expert and president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation Sheila Low told CNN Money that Lew’s current signature reminded her of a steamroller style of leadership. “From his signature, it seems to me that he’ll put forth his ideas, and he’ll keep going until he gets done what he wants to do,” she said. However, graphologist Kathi McKnight told the Washington Post that the roundness of Lew’s signature shows his softer side. “Such strokes are common among those who prefer a ‘softer’ approach to problem solving,” McKnight said. And she made an interesting comparison: “The signers of the Constitution, by contrast, used very strong, angular lettering.”

Does this actually say anything? Some are skeptical of the validity handwriting analysis. For years, the CIA has been assessing its value. According to an agency report, “On the basis of such studies, graphology as a means of assessment has been lumped with astrology, phrenology, and other systems for reading character from physical characteristics such as length of fingers or color of hair. Handwriting is, however, the product of a person. There is therefore some reason to expect it might tell something about him.”

Let’s just assume for a moment that behavioral traits and leadership style can be uncovered through graphology. What would your signature say about you? Share your story in the comments.

(Associations Now illustration)

Anita Ferrer

By Anita Ferrer

Anita Ferrer is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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