Leadership Presence – What’s the Secret?

Teacher Leader Conference 2 August 2012

Leadership Presence – What’s the Secret?

Leadership presence—the skills and characteristics of a leader that can improve performance, both in the person and in the organization he or she oversees—is about to have a moment. Perhaps it’s just that the executive-in-the-hoodie fad has passed its sell-by date of coolness, even on the ragged edges of Silicon Valley. Or maybe the increasing diversity that characterizes companies today is setting off a search for alternatives to the square-jawed, deep-voiced, airline-pilot persona that once epitomized our common conception of a leader.

Whatever the reasons, Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s new book, Executive Presence: The Missing Link between Merit and Success, is likely to deepen the interest. This is in part because Hewlett has given the concept a catchy abbreviation, EP, which echoes Daniel Goleman’s wildly successful introduction of EI (or emotional intelligence), and introduced it into the lexicon of leadership. But it’s also because Hewlett has for decades displayed an unerring ability to place herself ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying and researching the next big thing in the workplace.

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In Hewlett’s view, true EP is an ineffable blend of appearance, communication skills, and gravitas—a wonderful word that definitively declares the end of the hoodie era. Hewlett’s explanation of how these qualities work together is compelling; I admire both her approach and the meticulous research that informs it. But based on my 25 years of experience working with leaders, I’d suggest that true leadership presence is rooted less in a combination of skills and characteristics than in the capacity to actually be present. That means being present for the moment, for others, for the mission, and for the task at hand. There’s a reason why the words “presence” and “present” have the same root.

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Leadership Presence – What’s the Secret? 

 

Leadership Presence – What’s the Secret?