Recently I started looking through a book by Sylvia Ann Hewlett called Executive Presence : The Missing Link Between Merit and Success. I loved one of the summary lines from the book: Know your values. Bring strong talented people on your team. Work with people who complement you.
Isn’t that the key to leadership? Setting out, and holding fast to, your values, and then building a team that propel you further than you could go alone buoyed by the different strengths in the team. So that drew me in. Then Hewlett started outlining what executive presence is and how it enables you to bring strong people around you and serve in more and more complex leadership roles.
The book offers three key elements to having executive presence which set a leader apart:
- Gravitas or how you act. This means you don’t shy away from hard questions. You exude confidence and competence – marrying the ability to be tough with the ability to have empathy.
- Communication or how you share your message. This is everything from your words to how you walk, shake hands, sit and stand, body language, expression, etc. This affects what your audience (whether 1 or 1,000) hears and remembers. Hewlett recommends you learn to read a room – talking longer than your audience can listen diminishes your ability. Learn how to make small talk and watch for nervous ticks that detract from your presence.
- Appearance or how you look. Hewlett reminds us that people do judge a book by its cover, and recommends you assess your façade before assessing gravitas or communication. This isn’t your attractiveness – it’s your grooming. This is looking polished and professional. Dress both for the job you have and the one you want. Find someone you trust to provide honest feedback on your attire and the image you project.
I’m enjoying these reminders about the multi-faceted aspects of executive presence and am reminded once again that it is a critical component to achieve distinguished and distinctive leadership.