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Nicola Sturgeon: A Better Politician Than You Think

01/04/2015 22:46 BST | Updated 01/06/2015 10:59 BST

Nicola Sturgeon, like Angela Merkel, isn't exactly the most vivacious of leaders. But they both combine being competent in the limelight with a get-things-done tenacity and an intellectual credibility that appeals to voters tired of celebrity politics.

Let's be clear: this comparison is meant as a compliment, not an insult. Even if both the German chancellor and the Scottish first minister have relatively bland exteriors, they radiate a calm confidence in their abilities.

They're just not made from the brash mould of politician. Instead they're practical and businesslike. Give them the opportunity to do something and they've shown their ability to get it done. If they were still at school, you imagine they would be comfortable leading a project.

Scottish voters believe Sturgeon is a doer. She's able to communicate to the electorate that they can trust her and that she will deliver.

This comes across whenever she speaks. Instead of rushing her words, she takes her time. Instead of gazing vaguely into the distance Sturgeon focuses on her audience, making her more accessible. Her fluency is consistent and quietly authentic. It all gives an impression of someone who is a very polished, articulate and accomplished speaker.

Sturgeon is confident in her manner. When she greets a crowd of supporters she doesn't wave vigorously. Her hand just stays up there, waving without waving, while she smiles and soaks up the applause.

She is dressed for business. But her polished, dependable style is about more than just the superficial. She gives the impression of being completely in control of her brief - as her eyes reveal.

The eyes say so much about where your mind is. If someone is high on drugs, to take an extreme example, their eyes would be all over the place. If someone is being deceptive their eyes may dart around shiftily. If someone can look you in the eye with a calm authority it says a lot about their sense of purpose. And Nicola Sturgeon's eyes sum her right up. Their focus is on the person she's talking to just as her mind is focused on her brief. That communicates a sense of competence and control.

The only missing link is a slight lack of warmth which would magnify her presence and invite curious voters to take more notice of her ideas. She just isn't the kind of celebrity politician, like Alex Salmond, whose personality is a big part of the brand.

Voters don't mind that her behaviour doesn't shout 'look at me' because she's not hiding away, either. The trick of giving interviews or delivering speeches is looking like you want to be there. A leader has to relish the spotlight. So it's good news for the SNP that in Sturgeon it has another first minister who very much does fit in on a big stage.

We expect a lot of our leaders. They have to not just identify solutions but implement them, too. They must be able to take on vested interests and handle tough negotiations. This is why voters are right to question whether they have the drive and energy needed for the job. There's nothing worse than voting for someone who doesn't achieve anything.

Like Merkel, voters look at Sturgeon and think she can do the job. As the SNP look to make significant gains in 2015, the truth is the SNP leader's political skills are going to help her party clean up in this election.

Nick Smallman is chief executive of communications training firm Working Voices