Tag Archives: Gravitas

Defining Elusive Elements of “Executive Presence”

What behaviors and characteristics are associated with “Executive Presence?

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Communication, “Gravitas”, and Appearance were most-frequently cited attributes in a study by Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation.

Gavin Dagley

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

Caderyn Gaskin

Most executives described as having “presence” were men, and five “presence” characteristics were observable 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.

Five additional presence attributes emerge during repeated contacts that lead to evaluations over time:

  • 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 for 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.
Fred Luthans

Fred Luthans

University of Nebraska’s Fred Luthans and Stuart Rosenkrantz with Richard M. Hodgetts of Florida International University investigated the relationship between “executive presence” and career “success.”
They observed nearly 300 managers across 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.

These managers were identified as “successful” leaders because they advanced more rapidly than “effective” managers, measured by participants’ organizational level compared 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 employees’ activities including:

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

Stuart Rosenkrantz

Subordinates of “effective” managers reported more:

Job satisfaction,
Organizational commitment,
Performance quality,
Performance quantity.

Differences in advancement and subordinate reactions to “successful” and “effective” managers were 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% were among the top third of both successful managers and effective managers.
This suggests that effective managers who support employee performance may not be advance as rapidly as managers who prioritize their own career over their employees’ careers.

Gender differences in gravitas, communication, and political acumen may explain why men more often are seen as possessing “executive presence.”
Women who aspire to organizational advancement benefit from cultivate both gravitas and proactive networking to complement communication and interpersonal skills.

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

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©Kathryn Welds

Non-Verbal Behaviors that Signal “Charisma”

Olivia Fox Cabane

Olivia Fox Cabane

Olivia Fox Cabane defines charismatic behaviors as managing internal states and beliefs through self-awareness, emotional self-management to focus on others and “make them feel good,” in her book, The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism.

She identified four types of “charisma:”

o Focus: Presence, listening intently, confidence
o Visionary: Belief, confidence, inspires others
o Kindness: Warmth, confidence, eye contact, compassion/self-compassion, gratitude, goodwill, enable others to feel important and heard through asking open-ended questions, redirecting focus to other with question about opinion
o Authority: Power, status, confidence, appearance/clothing, “take up space” posture, reduce number of non-verbal reassurances (nodding)

Her book considers three key contributors to “charisma”:

o Presence – mindful attention, patient listening, avoiding interruption

o Power – appearance, clothing, occupy space, positive wording (avoid “don’t”), placebo effect

o Warmth – chin down, eye contact, Duchenne smile (mouth corners, eye corners), gratitude, compassion, appreciation to counteract “hedonic adaptation”

In an interview, Fox Cabane offered three “quick fixes” to amplify perceived “charisma”:

• Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences (no Valley Girl talk…)
• Reduce the speed and rapidity of nodding
• Pause for two seconds before you speak

She offered a number of self-management and communication tips, including a review of Cognitive Behavior Modification practices:

o Destigmatize Discomfort-Dedramatize
o Neutralize Negativity by disputing thoughts
o Rewrite Reality with cognitive reappraisal-reframing

Other reminders include:

• Increasing resilience by expanding the personal “comfort zone”
• Employing mental rehearsal through visualization
• Adopting equanimity, “radical acceptance”, calm
• Increasing impressions of similarity by increasing subtle mirroring of phrases, posture, gestures (such as handshake)
.Investigating appropriate attire, match level of formality/informality
o Delivering value: entertainment, information, good feeling
o Inhaling through nose to avoid anxious, breathless sound
o Using as few words as possible; be succinct; illustrate with imagery, metaphor, analogy, story, compelling statistics relevant to the listener
o Expressing appreciation for specific help, influence; identify positive impact, and context in which it came to mind
o Avoiding verbal “distractors”: “um”, “ah”, “you know”
o Breathing to avoid self-generated anxiety: ”Pause-Breathe-Slow Down”

-*Which elements of Power, Presence, and Warmth have you observed among the most “charismatic” people you know?

©Kathryn Welds