Executive Presence
eBook - ePub

Executive Presence

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

  1. 240 pagine
  2. English
  3. ePUB (disponibile sull'app)
  4. Disponibile su iOS e Android
eBook - ePub

Executive Presence

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Dettagli del libro
Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti
Citazioni

Informazioni sul libro

Are you "leadership material?" More importantly, do others perceive you to be? Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a noted expert on workplace power and influence, shows you how to identify and embody the Executive Presence (EP) that you need to succeed.

You can have the experience and qualifications of a leader, but without executive presence, you won't advance. EP is an amalgam of qualities that true leaders exude, a presence that telegraphs you're in charge or deserve to be. Articulating those qualities isn't easy, however.

Based on a nationwide survey of college graduates working across a range of sectors and occupations, Sylvia Hewlett and the Center for Talent Innovation discovered that EP is a dynamic, cohesive mix of appearance, communication, and gravitas. While these elements are not equal, to have true EP, you must know how to use all of them to your advantage.

Filled with eye-opening insights, analysis, and practical advice for both men and women, mixed with illustrative examples from executives learning to use the EP, Executive Presence will help you make the leap from working like an executive to feeling like an executive.

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Informazioni

Anno
2014
ISBN
9780062246905
1
WHAT IS EXECUTIVE PRESENCE?
President Obama has it. So does Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. It’s embodied by people as varied as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, celebrated Burmese parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi, and actress Angelina Jolie, especially since she made public her courageous decision to tackle her heritage of breast cancer. Nelson Mandela exuded it—when he donned the Springboks’ jersey and shook the hand of the captain of the winning all-white national rugby team the world knew that South Africa had found a leader intent on reconciliation.
It is executive presence—and no man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant following without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us we’re in the presence of someone who’s the real deal. It’s an amalgam of qualities that telegraphs that you are in charge or deserve to be.
And here I want to underscore the word telegraph. Executive presence is not a measure of performance: whether, indeed, you hit the numbers, attain the ratings, or actually have a transformative idea. Rather, it’s a measure of image: whether you signal to others that you have what it takes, that you’re star material. If you’re able to crack the EP code you’ll be first in line for the next plum assignment and be given a chance of doing something extraordinary with your life.
The amazing thing about EP is that it’s a precondition for success whether you’re a cellist, a salesperson, or a Wall Street banker.
Every October, a distinguished jury assembles at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City to judge the finalists in the Concert Artists Guild’s international competition. Several weeks of rigorous auditions have already taken place, and an applicant pool of 350 instrumentalists and singers from all over the world has been whittled down to 12 extraordinary young musicians. Last fall, I attended the final auditions.
A twenty-three-year-old Korean violinist had the first slot in the program.1 He entered the auditorium from stage left and after taking a detour behind the Steinway piano, sidled onto the apron of the stage looking painfully ill at ease. Head bowed, he stared at the floor, doing his best to avoid eye contact with the jurors as he waited for his accompanist to get settled. Unfortunately, it took a while, since she had trouble adjusting the piano stool to the right height. The violinist shifted his weight awkwardly from side to side. I could feel the restlessness rising in the audience. One juror blew his nose; another started tapping her foot.
Finally the accompanist struck the first chords of a glorious—and immensely difficult—Beethoven sonata, and the violinist raised his instrument and started playing. But it took a while for the audience to be drawn in—to give him a chance.
An Irish mezzo-soprano had slot number two. The energy was very different from the get-go. She walked confidently onto the stage, shoulders squared, head held high. Her dress was perfectly chosen, a simple navy blue sheath that conveyed elegance and seriousness of purpose. I spent a moment silently applauding her choice, but my attention was quickly drawn to her face, which was adorned with a radiant, joyous smile. She seemed to be telling me that something immensely pleasurable and exciting was about to begin. The jury caught the vibe and leaned forward in anticipation, lips parted, wanting and expecting to be impressed.
The other finalist who stood out was number seven—a twenty-year-old cellist who had just received an extraordinary review for a recording she’d done of the Dvorak cello concerto. As she started playing, I sensed trouble. It was her arms. They flapped. Every time she tackled her cello with a vigorous down-bow, the flesh bounced up and down. I was mesmerized—and so were the jurors. The problem was not excessive weight (she was of medium build) but her choice of clothing. Her dress was a disaster—a black silk number with a skimpy, ill-fitting halter top. No wonder her arms flapped—anyone’s would in such a getup.
My heart went out to this young musician. A distracted jury is never a good idea. Throughout her twenty-minute program the judges failed to focus their full attention on her music, and her powerful playing did not get its due.
These are the finalists that stand out in my memory: Musicians number one and seven did not receive prizes. The mezzo-soprano did.
I’ve gone to these auditions several times over the years and what always impresses me are the number of seemingly peripheral factors that feed into the judging process. For sure, each finalist in this international competition clears a high bar of excellence. All of the young musicians I heard at Merkin Hall last fall were enormously skilled. They wouldn’t have gotten through the early rounds of the competition if they weren’t outstanding practitioners of their musical craft.
But in the finals what distinguished one from another was all of the nonmusic stuff. The way they walked onto the stage, the cut of their clothes, the set of their shoulders, the spark in their eyes, and the emotion that played on their faces. All of these things established a mood either of tedium and awkwardness or of excited anticipation.
Richard Weinert, president of the Concert Artists Guild, marvels at the importance of nonmusical factors. “As we’ve grappled with launching the careers of these extraordinarily talented artists, we’ve learned that how they present themselves matters enormously. Yet oftentimes they don’t see it as being part of what they need to do. Graduates of the top conservatories—Juilliard, Curtis, and the like—have had little training in it and haven’t given it much thought. It often comes as a shock when we explain that how they move and what they wear onstage—how they establish rapport with the audience—is as important as their musical skills.”
A recent study underscores the importance of image (or EP, to use the language of this book) in the world of music. In a piece published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of London researcher Chia-Jung Tsay, working with a sample audience of one thousand, reports that people shown silent videos of pianists performing in international competitions picked out the winners more often than those who could also hear the sound track.2 The study concludes that the best predictor of success on the competition circuit was whether a pianist could communicate passion through body language and facial expression.
This evidence from the world of music underscores the tremendous power of image: How musicians present themselves creates an indelible impression. We might like to think that we’re evaluating a performance of Bach or Shostakovich based solely on what we hear, but in reality we’re profoundly conditioned by the visuals. Judgments are made before the first note sounds in the concert hall.
It’s no different in the workplace.
CRACKING THE EP CODE
So how do we figure out this image thing?
One financial sector CEO told me in an interview, “I can’t describe it, but I sure know it when I see it.” The fact is, many of us find EP a woolly and elusive concept. We can’t define it, and we have a hard time putting our arms around it.
Which is why I wrote this book.
Two years ago, my research team at the Center for Talent Innovation set out to crack the code, fielding a national survey that involved nearly 4,000 college-educated professionals—including 268 senior executives—to find out what coworkers and bosses look for when they evaluate an employee’s EP. In addition to this survey research, we also conducted forty focus groups and interviewed a large number of leaders.
We learned that EP rests on three pillars:
How you act (gravitas)
How you speak (communication)
How you look (appearance)
While the specifics vary depending on context (what works on Wall Street doesn’t necessarily work in Silicon Valley), these three pillars of EP are universal. They are also somewhat interactive. For example, if your communication skills ensure you can “command a room,” your gravitas grows exponentially; conversely, if your presentation is rambling and your manner timid, your gravitas suffers a blow.
One thing to note at the start is that these pillars are not equally important—not by a long shot. Gravitas is the core characteristic. Some 67 percent of the 268 senior executives we surveyed said that gravitas is what really matters. Signaling that “you know your stuff cold,” that you can go “six questions deep” in your domains of knowledge, is more salient than either communication (which got 28 percent of the senior executive vote) or appearance (which got a mere 5 percent).
Figure 1. EP: Three universal dimensions
Projecting intellectual horsepower underpins gravitas, but there’s more to this attribute than being the smartest gal or guy in the room. It’s about signaling that you have not only depth and heft but also the confidence and credibility to get your point across and create buy-in when the going gets rough—when your enterprise or venture is under extreme pressure. In fact, projecting confidence and “grace under fire” was the number-one pick of senior executives asked to identify what constitutes EP.
Ten years ago, another trait might have been the top pick. In the years immediately before the 2008 global recession CEOs were treated like demigods—rock stars in wing-tipped shoes—and charisma was a much-sought-after attribute. A huge personality and forceful presence marked a person as a leader. Think of GE’s Jack Welch or Virgin’s Richard Branson. But in the wake of the financial crisis, the ability to appear calm, confident, and steady in the face of an economic storm is far more important.
How do people know you have gravitas? You communicate the authority of a leader—through your speaking skills and ability to command a room. Indeed these two communications traits are the top picks (one and two) of the senior executives in our survey. Your tone of voice, bearing, and body language can also add to—or detract from—your ability to hold your audience’s attention, whether you’re presenting to a small team or addressing a plenary session of a large conference.
One surprise finding of our research is that, when it comes to communication, eye contact matters enormously. Being able to look your coworkers in the eye when making a presentation, or being able to make eye contact with the audience when making a speech, has a transformative effect—on your ability to connect, to inspire, to create buy-in. This fact has serious consequences. It means that you need to lose your glasses, your notes (and oftentimes your PowerPoint), and just wing it. This is not easy. It requires a huge commitment of time since you need to prepare and practice so thoroughly that the arc of your remarks becomes part of your muscle memory. There are no shortcuts.
In our survey senior executives told us that appearance is inconsequential—only 5 percent identified it as the most important aspect of EP. This is deceptive. The fact is, appearance (as we saw in the musical competition) is a critical first filter. While senior execs (and coworkers) see it as unimportant in the long run, it constitutes an initial hurdle. If a young female associate turns up at a client meeting wearing a tight blouse and a miniskirt, she may not be invited back—no matter how impressive her qualifications or how well prepared she is. The fact is, blunders on the appearance front can get you into serious trouble—and get you knocked off the list of those in contention for stretch roles or plum assignments—no matter how brilliant you are. It’s sobering to understand how quickly this happens. As we shall see in chapter 2, research conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that colleagues size up your competence, likability, and trustworthiness in 250 milliseconds—based simply on your appearance.
The only good news in our data on appearance is that “grooming and polish” was chosen by more respondents than “physical attractiveness” or “body type” (whether you are slim or well-endowed, tall or short) as a key contributor to EP. The comfort here of course is that grooming and polish can be learned and acquired. It’s a huge relief to know that cracking the code on the appearance front isn’t a function of what you were born with; rather, it’s a function of what you do with what you’ve got.
Part one of this book (chapters 2, 3, and 4) lays out the key components of gravitas, communication, and appearance. It tells us what our bosses and coworkers are looking for and gives us the wherewithal to deliver it. Part two describes some pitfalls and trip wires, because it’s not a simple matter, this cracking of the code. Most complicated of all is the fundamental tension between conformity and authenticity. How much should you fit in? How much should you stand out? How much of the “real you” are you prepared to sacrifice on the altar of success?
While every professional we interviewed told us he or she wrestles with this tension, the struggle is particularly painful for women and minorities. For these historically underrepresented groups are dealing with a double whammy. Not only do they need to shape and mold their identities to fit an organizational culture (something everyone faces), but they’re required to “pass” as straight white men. Why? Because this continues to be the dominant leadership model. Eighty-eight percent of those who sit in corner offices on Wall Street and Main Street look this way.
One comforting piece of news here is that with time, the authenticity struggle gets easier. With age and experience, those who truly do have the right stuff on the gravitas front earn the rig...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Dedication
  2. Contents
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. Prologue
  5. Chapter 1: What Is Executive Presence?
  6. Chapter 2: Gravitas
  7. Chapter 3: Communication
  8. Chapter 4: Appearance
  9. Chapter 5: Feedback Failures
  10. Chapter 6: Walking the Tightrope
  11. Chapter 7: Authenticity vs. Conformity
  12. Conclusion
  13. Appendix A
  14. Index of Exhibits
  15. Notes
  16. Index
  17. About the Author
  18. Advance Praise for Executive Presence
  19. Also by Sylvia Ann Hewlett
  20. Copyright
  21. About the Publisher