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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©Kathryn Welds

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

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