Tag Archives: Executive Presence

Defining Elusive Elements of “Executive Presence”

Fewer researchers have empirically investigated behaviors and characteristics associated with “Executive Presence” than the number of consultants offering recommendations on how to develop this quality and its potential association with career advancement.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

A previous blog post identified three characteristics associated with “executive presence” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation:  Communication, “Gravitas”, and Appearance.

Gavin Dagley

Interviews with 34 professionals, conducted by Perspex Consulting’s Gavin Dagley and Cadeyrn J. Gaskin, formerly of Deakin University, uncovered more elements than Hewitt’s proposed triad of qualities.

Caderyn Gaskin

They found that most executives described as having “presence” were men, reinforcing Hewitt’s assertion that women interested in career advancement should focus on conveying executive presence attributes to observers.

Dagley and Gaskin identified ten characteristics including those mentioned by Hewitt.
The first five characteristics are based on first impressions during initial contact:

  • Status and reputation, similar to “gravitas” discussed by Hewitt,
  • Physical appearance, also mentioned by Hewitt,
  • Confidence,
  • Communication ability, included in Hewitt’s “presence” triad,
  • Interpersonal engagement skills.

The final five attributes derive from evaluations over time during repeated contacts:

  • Interpersonal integrity,
  • Values-in-action,
  • Intellect and expertise,
  • Outcome delivery,
  • Coercive power.

These qualities combine in different ways to form four presence “archetypes”:

  • Positive presence, based on favorable impressions of confidence, communication, appearance, and engagement skills plus favorable evaluations of values, intellect, and expertise,
  • Unexpected presence, linked to unfavorable impressions of confidence plus favorable evaluations of intellect, expertise, and values,
  • Unsustainable presence combines favorable impressions of confidence, status, reputation, communication, and engagement skills plus unfavorable evaluations of values and integrity,
  • “Dark presence” is associated with unfavorable perceptions of engagement skills plus unfavorable evaluations of values, integrity, and coercive use of power.
Philippe De Backer

Philippe De Backer

Another typology of executive presence characteristics was identified by Sharon V. Voros and Bain’s Philippe de Backer.
They prioritized elements in order of importance to purportedly related life outcomes:

  • Focus on long term, strategic drivers,
  • Intellect,
  • Charisma, combining confidence, intensity, commitment, plus demeanor of care, concern and interest in others,
  • Communication skills,
  • Passion,
  • Cultural fit,
  • Poise,
  • Appearance.

Most people assume a relationship between “executive presence” and career “success,” even if the causal connection has not been demonstrated.

Fred Luthans

Fred Luthans

However, University of Nebraska’s Fred Luthans and Stuart Rosenkrantz with Richard M. Hodgetts of Florida International University investigated this relationship by observing nearly 300 managers from various levels at large and small mainstream organizations as they:

  • Communicated,
  • Engaged in “traditional management” activities, including planning, decision making, controlling,
  • Managed human resource issues.
Richard Hodgetts

Richard Hodgetts

Communication and interpersonal skills elements of “presence,” coupled with intentional “networking” and political acumen enabled managers to rapidly advance in their organizations.

Luthans and team identified these managers as “successful” leaders because they advanced more rapidly than “effective” managers, measured by participants’ organizational level compare with their organizational tenure.
In contrast, “effective” managers demonstrated greater managerial skill than “successful” managers, but were not promoted as quickly.

“Effective” managers spent most time managing human resource activities including:

  • Motivating/reinforcing,
  • Managing conflict,
  • Hiring/staffing,
  • Training/developing team members,
  • Communicating by exchanging information,
  • Processing paperwork.
Stuart Rosenkrantz

Stuart Rosenkrantz

Their subordinates reported more positive attitudes and behaviors than subordinates of “successful” managers for:

  • Job satisfaction,
  • Organizational commitment,
  • High team performance quality,
  • High team performance quantity.

Differences in advancement and subordinate reactions to “successful” and “effective” managers appear related to differing managerial behaviors.

Fred Luthans-Effective Managers“Successful” managers spent little time in managerial activities, but invested more effort in networking, socializing, politicking, and interacting with outsiders.
Their networking activities were most strongly related to career advancement but weakly associated with “effectiveness.”

Few managers were both “successful” and “effective”:  Only about 10% of volunteers were among the top third of both successful managers and effective managers.
These findings can lead to discouragement and cynicism, noting that effective managers who support employee performance may not be rewarded with advancement as rapidly as managers who prioritize their career over that of their employees.

These studies suggest that gravitas, communication, and political acumen may explain the gender difference for perceived “executive presence.”
Women who aspire to organizational advancement seem to benefit from cultivating both gravitas and proactive networking to complement communication and interpersonal skills.

-*Which behaviors and characteristics are essential to “Executive Presence”?

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Perception of CEOs’ Non Verbal Leadership Behaviors Affect IPO Valuations, Predict Financial Performance

Elizabeth Blankespoor

Elizabeth Blankespoor

Favorable first impressions of CEOs can affect new companies’ valuations and can predict near-term performance.

Perception of CEO non-verbal behavior during IPO road show presentations was associated with higher valuations at each IPO stage, found Stanford’s Elizabeth Blankespoor, Greg Miller of University of Michigan, and University of North Carolina’s Brad Hendricks.
These findings underscore the importance of road show presentations and presenters’ credibility to investors, underwriters, analyst, and financial media.

Greg Miller

Greg Miller

Blankespoor’s team noted that for most investors, the road show is the first time they see the CEO in the two-week interval between setting the initial proposed price and determining the final offer price.
As a result, Blankespoor and colleagues posit “a tight link between perceptions and valuation.”

Participants in their investigation were hired through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing task website, to view videotapes of CEOs presenting IPO roadshow, then to rate the speakers for competence, attractiveness, and trustworthiness.

Brad Hendricks

Brad Hendricks

At least 40 people viewed each series of 30-second video clips from 224 actual road show presentations between 2011 and 2013, with modified audio to muffle words while retaining vocal pitch and rhythm.

After controlling for other factors that could affect stock price like CEO age, experience, and education, companies with higher-rated CEOs on a composite score of competence, attractiveness, and trustworthiness ratings received a larger price increase for the proposed offering price and the revised price for secondary markets.

Mechanical TurkFor each 5% increase in CEO composite perception score, the final market price was 11% higher, and CEO perceived competence and attractiveness had a significant impact on firm valuation.
However, trustworthiness alone had no effect.

These initial perceptions also correlated with companies’ early performance, based on stock prices up to 12 months after the IPO, suggesting that “…investors … glean real additional information about the CEO from … nonverbal behavior and … perceptions of management are signals for firm value.”

Gotham Research GroupBloggers as well as traditional media outlets are important arbiters of CEO reputation.
In a commissioned analysis of 10 well-known institutional bloggers by the Gotham Research Group, perceptions of CEO authenticity were significantly related to bloggers’ evaluations of CEO competence and performance.

Candor, bluntness, fearlessness, specificity, plain words, examples from stories, warmth, frequent contact with customers and employees, and acknowledging challenges and worthy competitors are all essential to setting a credible tone, according to this report.

Weber ShandwickIn fact, Public Relations firm Weber Shandwick noted that 49% of company reputation is attributed to CEO reputation, and 60% of market value is attributed to company reputation.
Perception of a CEO, the firm argues, has significant influence on market value, underscoring empirical findings by Blankespoor’s team.

-*What non-verbal behaviors and attributes signal “leadership” and “executive presence” to you?

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“Self-Packaging” as Personal Brand: Implicit Requirements for Personal Appearance?

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill

Al Ries

Al Ries

During the Depression of the 1930s in the US, motivational writer Napoleon Hill laid the foundation for “personal positioning,” described nearly forty-five years later by marketing executives Al Ries and Jack Trout in Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Jack Trout

Jack Trout

Tom Peters

Tom Peters

By 1997, business writer Tom Peters introduced “personal branding” as self-packaging that communicates an individual’s accomplishments and characteristics, including appearance, as a “brand promise of value.”
He also enumerated “what branding is not.”

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands

Blogger Murray Newlands opines that personal branding refers to all facets of personal presentation.
He notes that “self-packaging is the shell of who you are” and differentiates it from “self-presentation …that essence of what sets you apart from the crowd.

The goal of personal branding, then, is to communicate the intrinsic, most important, differentiating personal characteristics, exemplified in self-packaging details like attire, business cards, speaking style and more.

Daniel Lair

Daniel Lair

Communications researchers Daniel Lair, now of University of Michigan at Flint along with University of Utah’s Katie Sullivan and George Cheney, now of Kent State University, cast an academic lens on personal branding in their analysis, Marketization and the Recasting of the Professional Self: The Rhetoric and Ethics of Personal Branding.

George Cheney

George Cheney

They refer to the practice as “…a startlingly overt invitation to self-commodification” worthy of “careful and searching analysis… as (perhaps) an extreme form of a market-appropriate response.

Lair, Sullivan, and Cheney examine the complex rhetoric tactics used in personal branding, and how these shape power relations by gender, age, race, and class.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett and researchers at Center for Talent Innovation echo some of these social concerns with potential biasing effects of personal branding.

Hewlett and team consider the special case of personal appearance as an element of “personal packaging”.
They note the challenges facing women and members of minority groups in meeting unspoken, implicit requirements for executive presence embodied in personal appearance.

-*What elements do you consider in “personal packaging” and the specific case of personal appearance?

-*How do you mitigate possible bias based on expectations for personal appearance?

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

Executive Presence is intuitively considered essential to effectively execute key leadership roles.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist, prolific researcher 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).

She acknowledged that organizational advancement assumes knowledge, skill, competence, and “authenticity” tempered with “cultural fit.”
Interviewees opined that three elements are crucial components of “Executive Presence,” required for advancement to highest organizational levels, and estimated that  “EP” accounts for more than a quarter of factors that determine a next promotion: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 convey competence, credibility
        Avoids:

        • Racially-biased comments
        • Off-color jokes
        • Crying
        • Swearing
        • Flirting
        • Scratching
        • Avoiding eye contact
        • Rambling
        • Giggling
        • Speaking shrilly
        • Posting critical or provocative online content
  • Presence”, “bearing”,  “charisma” including assertiveness, humor, and humility
  • Ability to sense audience engagement, emotion, interests
  • Appearance
    • Attention to grooming, posture
    • Physical attractiveness, normal weight
    • Well-maintained, professional attire

Executive Presence - MonarthHarrison Monarth, author of Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO, emphasized “Image Management” via communication and self-marketing skills:

  • 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)

Monarth emphasized appearance’s importance less than Hewlett and Stanford legal scholar Deborah Rhode, whose The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law, reported long-standing findings of the “Halo Effect” – that appearance and non-verbal behavior influence available options for education, relationships, career advancement, salary negotiation, social status, and other life opportunities.

The Beauty BiasRhode estimated that annual world-wide investment in appearance is close to $200 billion in 2010 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 have remained loosely-defined until systematic investigation by Hewlett’s team, Monarth’s consulting-based approach, and Rhode’s legal analysis.

-*Which elements seem most essential to “Executive Presence”?

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