Executive Presence: “Gravitas”, Communication…and Appearance?

Executive Presence is considered essential to achieve leadership roles and effectively perform in them.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Organizational advancement assumes measurable knowledge, skill, competence, coupled with less quantifiable “authenticity,” “cultural fit,” and “executive presence.”

To more clearly define these less tangible prerequisites of executive advancement, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist and CEO of Center for Talent Innovation, conducted 18 focus groups and 60 interviews to systematically investigate behavioral and attitudinal aspects of Executive Presence (EP).

Interviewees opined that Executive Presence accounts for more than a quarter of factors that determine a next promotion, and includes three distinct components:Executive Presence

Gravitas” – Authoritative Behavior

    • Confidence, composure,
    • Decisiveness,
    • Integrity,
    • Emotional Intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, interpersonal skills,
    • Clear personal “brand” reputation,
    • Vision for leadership

Communication

    • Strong speaking skills:  Voice tone, clear articulation, grammatical speech conveying competence, credibility,
    • Presence”, “bearing”,  “charisma” including assertiveness, humor, humility,
    • Ability to sense audience engagement, emotion, interests

Appearance

    • Attention to grooming, posture,
    • Physical attractiveness, normal weight,
    • Well-maintained, professional attire.

Harrison Monarth

Executive presence can be cultivated with Image Management, argued Harrison Monarth.

He advocated self-marketing tactics including:

– Creating and maintaining a compelling personal “brand” to influence others’ perceptions and willingness to collaborate,

– Managing online reputation, and recovering when communications go awry,

-Effectively persuading those who disagree, and gaining followers,

-Demonstrating “Emotional Intelligence” skills of self-awareness, awareness of others (empathic insight).

He focused less on appearance as a contributor to career advancement than Hewlett and Stanford Law School’s Deborah Rhode, who summarized extensive research on Halo Effect.
Rhode and Hewlett acknowledge the impact of appearance and non-verbal behavior on various life opportunities including career advancement.

Deborah Rhode

Rhode estimated that annual world-wide investment in appearance is close to $200 billion in 2010 USD currency, and she contended that bias based on appearance:

  • Is prevalent,
  • Infringes on individuals’ fundamental rights,
  • Compromises merit principles,
  • Reinforces negative stereotypes,
  • Compounds disadvantages facing members of non-dominant races, classes, and gender.

Executive Presence is widely recognized as a prerequisite for leadership roles, yet its components remained loosely-defined until Hewlett’s systematic investigation, Monarth’s consulting-based approach, and Rhode’s legal analysis.

-*Which elements seem most essential to Executive Presence?

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How Much Does Appearance Matter?

Hillary Clinton

Even before Hillary Clinton‘s historic 2016 campaign for President of the U.S., attorney and image consultant Orene Kearn,questioned the impact of Clinton’s appearance on her perceived competence as US Secretary of State.

Orene Kearn

Perceived attractiveness was correlated with perceived competence and likeability in a meta-analysis by Michigan State University’s Linda A. Jackson, John E. Hunter, and Carole N. Hodge.
They reported that physically attractive people are perceived as more intellectually competent, supporting  status generalization theory and implicit personality theory.

Nancy Etcoff

Women who wore cosmetics were rated more highly on attractiveness, competence, likability and trustworthiness when viewed for as little as 250 milliseconds, found Harvard’s Nancy L. Etcoff, Lauren E. Haley, and David M. House, with Shannon Stock of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Proctor & Gamble’s Sarah A. Vickery.

Models without makeup, with natural, professional, “glamorous” makeup

However, when participants looked at the faces for a longer period of time, ratings for competence and attractiveness remained the same, but ratings for likability and trustworthiness changed based on specific makeup looks.

Volunteers accurately distinguished between
judgments of facial trustworthiness vs attractiveness and attractiveness was related to positive judgments of competence, but less systematically to perceived social warmth.

The researchers concluded that cosmetics could influence automatic and deliberative judgments because attractiveness “rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes.”

Most people recognize the bias in assuming that attractive people are competent and that unattractive people are not, yet impression management remains crucial in the workplace and in the political arena.

-*Where have you seen appearance exert an influence in workplace credibility, decision-making and role advancement?

 

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Consequences of “Facades of Conformity”

Patricia Hewlin

Patricia Hewlin

Employees, especially minority group members, adopt Façades of conformity (FOC) when they “act as if” they embrace an organization’s values to remain employed or to succeed in that organization, found Georgetown University’s Patricia Hewlin.

Facades of Conformity can lead to employees developing “rationalizations” that enable them to carry out distasteful or even assignments, found University of Alberta’s Flora Stormer and Kay Devine of Athabasca University.

Jerome Kerviel

Jerome Kerviel

This may explain Jerome Kerviels experience at Societe General.
He was branded as a “rogue trader,” though he seemed not to personally benefit from unauthorized trades.

He and others explained his motivation to please his managers and to earn a bonus based on his trades, in the context of his “outsider status” as someone who had not attended elite universities and was not considered a “star.”

-*In what organizational contexts have you observed “Facades of Conformity” and their consequences?

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How Much Positive Feedback Counterbalances Criticism?

Sandra Mashihi

Sandra Mashihi

Does 360-degree feedback do more harm than good?
Envisia’s Kenneth Nowack and Sandra Mashihi provided “evidence-based answers”:

Kenneth Nowack

Kenneth Nowack

Poorly-designed 360-degree feedback assessments and interventions can increase disengagement and contribute to poor individual and team performance.

Individuals can “experience strong discouragement and frustration” when feedback is not as affirming as anticipated.
In addition, negatively-perceived information may be discounted and disregarded.

John Gottman

John Gottman

The ratio of positive to negative feedback may determine whether it is incorporated and used.
University of Washington’s John Gottman and Pepper Schwartz found that well-functioning marriages have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback.

A positive-negative ratio of 3:1 in 360-feedback sessions encouraged enhanced individual and team performance, individual workplace engagement, effectiveness, and emotional “flourishing,” according to University of North Carolina’s Barbara Frederickson and Marcial Losada of University of Michigan.

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson

Proportions of negative feedback and interactions that exceed these ratios can interfere with insight and motivation and diminish willingness to engage in work-related practice and performance effectiveness.
Fredrickson suggested that this 3:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback is a “tipping point.”

Naomi Eisenberger

Naomi Eisenberger

When people are overloaded with negative feedback, neurophysiologic pathways associated with physical pain are triggered, reported UCLA’s Naomi Eisenberger and Matthew Lieberman collaborating with Kipling Williams of Macquarie University.

Zhansheng Chen

Zhansheng Chen

This effect was corroborated when volunteers reported higher levels of physical pain and demonstrated diminished performance on a cognitively-demanding task, in research by Williams, University of Hong Kong’s Zhansheng Chen, Julie Fitness of Macquarie University, and University of New South Wales’s Nicola C. Newton.

“Titrating” negative feedback in 360 degree evaluations within recommended ratios can enable recipients to more effectively assimilate and execute recommendations.

-*What ratios of positive to negative feedback do you apply in helping others improve performance?

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Empathy Paradox:  Similar Adversity Reduces Compassion

Many intuitively believe that people are more empathic toward those who experience difficulties they also encountered.

Ervin Staub

Ervin Staub

This linkage between challenging life experiences and subsequent empathy was posited by University of Massachusetts’s Ervin Staub and Joanna Vollhardt of Clark University, and confirmed in experiments by Northeastern’s Daniel Lim and David DiSteno.

Daniel Lim

Daniel Lim

However, this connection is more complicated, found Northwestern’s Rachel Ruttan and Loran Nordgren with Mary-Hunter McDonnell of Wharton.

Rachel Ruttan

Rachel Ruttan

The team exposed volunteers to people who expressed dejection in enduring a hardship such as bullying or unemployment.

Participants who recalled similar past hardships remembered them as less distressing than they were originally experienced, and were more likely to harshly judge others in similar circumstances for their difficulties in enduring the situation.

Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia

In fact, volunteers who previously coped with severe bullying felt less — not more — compassion for current bullying victims.

Likewise, those who had faced greater difficulty with unemployment had less empathy for people who were currently jobless.

This confirms the “tough love” approach implied in the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s directive to Americans dismayed with the 2000 election outcome: “Get over it!”

Mary-Hunter McDonnell

Mary-Hunter McDonnell

However, when the the volunteers’ adversity experiences differed from the current suffers’ difficulties, participants were more compassionate.

The “empathy gap” emerged only when survivors of similar hardships showed less understanding for current suffers.

  • -*How do you reduce the “empathy gap” in workplace situations?

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Self-Distancing Pronouns Use Can Increase Self-Management

Ethan Kross

Ethan Kross

Despite years of popular guidance to use self-statements for difficult conversations with partners, spouses, and bosses, research argues for using self-distancing alternatives to manage stress and increase self-control.

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

University of Michigan’s Ethan Kross, Jiyoung Park, Aleah Burson, Adrienne Dougherty, Holly Shablack, and Ryan Bremner with Emma Bruehlman-Senecal and Ozlem Ayduk of University of California, Berkeley, plus Michigan State’s Jason Moser studied more than 580 people’s ability to self-regulate reactions to social stress by using different ways of referring to the self during introspection.

LeBron James

LeBron James

One example of variations in self-reference is LeBron James’ statement, One thing I didn’t want to do was make an emotional decision. I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy.”

The team demonstrated that using non-first-person pronouns (such as “he” or “she”)  and one’s own name (rather than “I”) during introspection enhanced self-distancing, or focusing on the self from a distant perspective.

Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes

Distancing, also called “decentering” or “self as context,” allows people to observe and accept their feelings, according to University of Nevada’s Steven Hayes, Jason Luoma, Akihiko Masuda and Jason Lillis collaborating with Frank Bond of University of London.

Ozlem Ayduk

Ozlem Ayduk

Self-distancing verbalizations were associated with less distress and less maladaptive “post-event processing  (reviewing performance) when delivering a speech without sufficient time to prepare, and when seeking to make a good first impression on others.
Post-event processing can lead to increased social anxiety, noted Temple University’s Faith Brozovich and Richard Heimberg.

Faith Brozovich

Faith Brozovich

They found that participantsexperienced less global negative affect and shame after delivering a speech without sufficient preparation time, and engaged in less post-event processing.

Adrienne Dougherty

People who talked about themselves with non-first person pronouns also performed better in speaking and impression-formation social tasks, according to ratings by observers.

Participants who used self-distancing language appraised future stressors as less threatening, and they more effectively reconstrued experiences for greater coping, insight, and closure, in another study by Kross and Ayduk.

Ryan Bremner

Ryan Bremner

People with elevated scores on measures of depression or bipolar disorder experienced less distress when applying a self-distanced visual perspective as they contemplated emotional experiences, noted Kross and Ayduk, collaborating with San Francisco State University’s David Gard, Patricia Deldin of University of Michigan, and Jessica Clifton of University of Vermont.

David Gard

Using second-person pronouns (“you”) seems to be a self-distancing strategy when people reflect on situations that involve self-control, noted University of North Carolina’s Ethan Zell, Amy Beth Warriner of McMaster University and University of Illinois’s Dolores Albarracín.

Ethan Zell

These findings demonstrate that small changes in self-referencing words during introspection significantly increase self-regulation of thoughts, feelings, and behavior during social stress experiences.

Self-distancing references may help people manage depression and anger about past and anticipated social anxiety.

Dolores Albarracín

-*What impact do you experience when you use “self-distancing language”?

-*How do you react when you hear others using “self-distancing language,” like referring to “you” when speaking about their own experience?

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Gender-Neutral Language Associated with Greater Gender Wage Parity

Lucas van der Velde

Lucas van der Velde

Nations that use gender-neutral languages have a smaller Gender Wage Gap (GWG) than countries with clear gender differentions in their languages, reported University of Warsaw’s Lucas van der Velde, Joanna Tyrowicz, and Joanna Siwinska.

Gender-Neutral Language

Gender-Neutral Language

The team evaluated Yale linguists Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir’s hypothesis that linguistic categories influence perception, thinking, and behavior by examining data from the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures to determine whether the primary language spoken in a given country had a “sex-based gender system” of grammar rules like gender-specific noun and pronouns.

Benjamin Whorf

Benjamin Whorf

For example, French language links specific nouns to genders, whereas English generally uses different pronouns for men and women (“his” and “hers”) — despite the increasing use of “they” to indicate an individual of either gender, not a group of people.
In contrast, Mandarin and Finnish languages “have no system of gender identification.”

The researchers analyzed whether the primary language contained expressions that celebrate one gender while disparaging another, and compared these findings with estimates for Gender Wage Disparities (GWD) in more than 50 countries from 117 studies published between 2005 and 2014.

Benjamin Whorf

The gender wage gap may be driven by some deep societal features stemming from such basic social codes as language,” they concluded, supporting the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Katarzyna Bojarska

Katarzyna Bojarska

Gender cues are implicitly and unconsciously used to decode a message’s full meaning in addition to its semantic content, suggested University of Gdańsk’s Katarzyna Bojarska.

She argued that when gender is not clearly specified, unconscious cognitive processing attempts to plausibly reconstruct missing gender information with non-semantic cues.

Gender Neutral Occupational Titles

Gender Neutral Occupational Titles

These findings suggest that countries that favor policies to reduce disparate earnings by gender can enable this goal by providing early training to set children’s expectations of gender equality, particularly in countries using a gendered language,

-*To what extent has your workplace adopted gender-inclusive language?

-*How does your organization’s use of gendered language relate to its wage parity practices?

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