(Aristotle 101) – Presence; Communication; Look – Insight from Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s Executive Presence

The Powers that Be“He was the incandescent man. Phil Graham walked into a room and took it over, charming whomever he wished…No one in Washington could match him at it, not even, in the days before he became Presidentt, John F. Kennedy.  He was handsome and slim and when he smiled, at first shy and then bold, everything stopped. He was the Sun King.”
David Halberstam, The Powers That Be


Executive PresenceI just read Mastering The Skill You Lack To Get The Promotion You Deserve: Leaders Have A Natural Authority Called Gravitas–When They Speak, Others Listen. You Can Also Harness This Trait On Your Rise To The Top in Fast Company, building on Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s, Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success.   At the beginning of her book, after naming people who “have (or had) it” (Nelson Mandela; Angelina Jolie; Margaret Thatcher; Aung Sun Suu Kyi, among others), she describes it:

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.

The article was certainly a good introduction to this book – makes me want to read it. Here are some key excerpts from the article:

…the ability to signal to the world, and to telegraph to your colleagues and bosses that you have intellectual horsepower–that you have what it takes,” she says. “This is really about being seen as being ready for a big opportunity.”
Yes, PowerPoint slides and notes are helpful, but overuse of these crutches “gives the impression that you don’t know your stuff cold…”

The author of the article, Laura Vanderkam, pulls out these key takeaways from the book:

Be Unflappable
Be Tough–In A Way People Can Take
Speak Truth To Power
Showcase Your Emotional Intelligence
Master The Banter
Ditch Security Blankets
Look The Part

(Read the article to read descriptives of each of these seven takeaways).

So, I downloaded the sample pages at the Amazon site, and read John Gibbs’ review, who summarized the book this way:

The author and her research team at the Center for Talent Innovation used a survey and focus groups to discover the answer, and they found that executive presence rests on three pillars:
• How you act (gravitas)
• How you speak (communication)
• How you look (appearance)

Which brings us to Aristotle…

I teach Speech to entry-level college students, and I lead Presentation Skills training sessions within companies and organizations. I always start with Aristotle’s basics – logos, ethos, pathos. Or, the logical appeal, the ethical appeal, and the emotional appeal. In other words:

#1 – have something worthwhile to contribute (flowing from logos)
#2 – be viewed as credible (ethos is all about credibility)
#3 – care enough about what you have to offer that you are fully emotionally engaged – it matters to you! (pathos – it starts with your own emotional engagement).

Pretty parallel to the counsel of Ms. Hewlett.

We keep going back to Aristotle

Aristotle 101 – we should all know this by now, but we have to reminded over and over… and over… again. Ms. Hewlitt’s book, Executive Presence, sounds like it could be the next good reminder.



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