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The Power of Executive Presence
The skill that gets you noticed.
Happy Tuesday, and welcome to my JOURNALS.
I want to start off by sharing a personal story from back when I was cutting my teeth in the super competitive world of consulting. I got a piece of advice that was a total game-changer for me. I had a senior colleague, really experienced. He told me,
“You’re sharp and tactical skills are on point, but you come across like you're young and inexperienced.”
And honestly, I was a bit puzzled. I said, ‘Well, that’s because I’m young and inexperienced?’
To which he replied, 'It doesn’t matter. You need to act like you belong, act like you have something valuable to contribute.'
He was trying to instill in me a sense of Executive Presence.
What is Executive Presence?
“Executive presence is the combination of personality and character traits that make a dynamic executive. It’s the ability to inspire others to be assertive in their roles through the consistent demonstration of confidence and clear leadership. Executive presence allows leaders to understand their team member’s needs in correlation with the needs of the business.”
MIT Sloan School of Management
Career Development Office
He advised me to think of myself not just as someone with a few months of experience under their belt but as the client’s main point of contact for all the wisdom and resources our firm (IBM) had to offer.
And he was right.
That shift in perspective was a game-changer for my career.
Years later, I discovered this book called 'Executive Presence' by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, and everything just clicked.
Sylvia brilliantly dissects what executive presence really means. It’s not just about your achievements and your technical skills; it’s about how you make others feel, how confidently you carry yourself, and how effectively you communicate.
This probably is the greatest secret behind how “some” people are able to get their foot inside the door - “effortlessly.”
When you carry yourself with an executive presence, you tend to earn a lot of respect from those around you. It's like people start listening to you more attentively, and your opinions hold more weight. In a room full of heated debates, all eyes will turn to you, waiting to hear what you have to say.
Sylvia explains that executive presence is built on three key pillars:
how you act, which is your gravitas;
how you speak, your communication skills, and
how you look, your appearance.
She says, 'Gravitas is the core of executive presence. The other two pillars, communication and appearance, are like the wrapping on the package.'
Think about Barack Obama, for example. Regardless of where you stand politically, the man has an executive presence. He speaks with clarity and conviction, he carries himself with dignity, and he has a calm and composed demeanour, even under pressure.
That’s Executive Presence in action.
Here's the thing - you can actually start honing this presence right away, regardless of where you're at in your career. You don't have to wait until you've reached the top of the ladder to do so. It's all about being conscious and aware of how you come across to others.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett puts it brilliantly when she says,
'Executive presence is the ability to engage, align, inspire, and move people to act.'
It’s not about being extroverted or charming. It’s something else entirely. And yes, it does get better with experience, but the key is to start working on it EARLY."
My mentor from my consulting days and the wisdom I gained from Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book they were both instrumental in helping me develop my own executive presence. And now, I’m here to pass on that knowledge to you.
Have a great week!
3 Pieces of Advice
Here are 3 things that I thought about a lot last week.
1. Speak Up!
Have you ever heard the saying "closed mouths don't get fed"? It's so true! If you want something, you've got to ask for it. Don't be afraid to speak up and let your needs be known. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
2. Thinking vs. Doing
In regards to doing something you don't want to do...
Don't think about it; just start doing it. The more you think about it, the more reasons you'll give yourself to not do it.
3. Walking Tall
Walk like you have 5,000 ancestors behind you.
This is the same advice my mentor gave me above. This is how you BORROW “Presence”.
My Favourite Things This Week
Book - I just finished reading "The Elephant in the Brain" and it was truly eye-opening! The book explores the hidden motives behind our everyday actions and made me realize just how much of our behaviour, is driven by selfishness and the desire for status and recognition. It was definitely an uncomfortable realization, but an important one nonetheless.
Netflix - “One Punch Man”
It's important to have something that reminds you of your childhood, and this Netflix series does just that. It's absolutely hilarious, filled with nonsensical violence. What made me laugh the most was the amount of hard work that goes into building the plot before the arrival of "One Punch Man". He finishes everything with just one punch and then acts as though nothing has happened.
Food - “Minestrone Soup”
I love it when I am sick and my throat is signalling a week full of cough. I knew the coughing was coming with nightly temperatures at -12°C.
Quote of the Week
“Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t. With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the same time, effort makes skill productive”.
From Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth.
Most watched YouTube video last week
This Thursday, 2nd November 2023 I am starting a new “Training Series” on Scaling Agile Practices.
We will continue with our “Technical Literacy” on Sunday.
Last Week’s Posts
🙏 Thank You!
If you liked the first post of the “My Journals” series please give it a thumbs up.
Wish you a successful career journey ahead.
Until next week 👋
“I share things I wish I knew in the starting years of my career in the corporate world."
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