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.
Author: Sylvia Ann Hewlett
“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.”
Where to begin? There were things I liked about this book, and there were things that sat awkwardly on my conscience. It was quick and ultra-digestible, and it made me feel inspired to action and hopeful about my professional future, but there were some truth bombs in there that speak to many of the things that are wrong with society today.
Hewlett takes us through the various aspects of what she calls Executive Presence, or EP. These include “Gravitas,” Communication, and Appearance. She also offers advice on giving and receiving feedback, navigating EP challenges, and maintaining authenticity or conforming as appropriate.
The writing style of this book was a lot like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, which I loved so much that I turned the chapter titles into a poster. (It hangs in my cube at work.) Many business or leadership books tend to be the same—or similar enough that they all blend together. I think the way How to Win Friends and this book break free of that pattern is through all the stories they tell. The author introduces a point and then tells a detailed story about a real person, setting up the problem, describing the executed solution, and then concluding with the outcome. These examples make the lessons really digestible, relatable, and actionable.
Hewlett did have some good pointers, although I’d call “What Nobody Ever Tells You about Getting Ahead” a bit of a stretch. And her assertions about how women, in particular, can exude EP were valid—valid, but extremely unfortunate. She does call out sexism and gender bias in the workplace, but she’s also frank about what will and will not work. Wearing tight clothing will tarnish your reputation in most workplaces. Allowing your voice to raise when you are upset or emotional will annoy your coworkers. Wearing your hair to your waist will age you down. And nobody is going to point these things out to you if they are holding you back because they’re taboo topics. These are uncomfortable because obviously, it would be better if they were untrue, but they are not.
All in all, this was a quick read that was well worth my time, but not a life-changer.