In this series, we will explore what constitutes the Building Blocks to a successful Corporate Career. Between the said and the unstated there are several nuances of behaviors that when demonstrated constitute desirable behaviors for being considered 'High Potential' capable of taking on more than the solid citizens. What prompted the series are my experiences over a 27 year career as an HR/ Learning/ OD Professional, where I have seen so many who didn’t ever know why they missed the bus when an opportunity to move up passed them by. Several well-intentioned, qualified professionals are left stupefied on why others were considered more favorably, when they had worked equally hard, were equally loyal or were perhaps considered equally competent?!
We start this series with Developing Executive Presence.
Executive Presence is the most important factor that determines Promotion Decisions to Leadership roles within organizations. To be perceived as Leadership material is an essential prerequisite to being promoted to Leadership positions. The agonizing truth (ref Oregon State University) is that during most Promotion interviews, the Interviewer within the first 10 seconds decides on whether you are right for the job or not. Appearance and proper attire creates a Halo effect in ensuring positives and negates minor gaffes one might make during the interview. The truth is Leadership roles are given to those who look and act the part. Top Jobs often elude those who lack Executive Presence or underestimate it's importance.
Executive presence is simply-
How you speak (Communicate)
How you look (Appearance)
How you act (Gravitas)
Not just coherent but impactful communication is expected when you want to be considered for leadership roles. It's important you make a great first impression which includes introducing yourself in a manner in which no one you ever meet can easily forget you! Does that sound too lofty? Ask those who got identified as Leadership potential for asking the right questions or making a prominent observation at a meeting. The ability to speak up and influence people, finding common ground, handle opposing viewpoints are all significant components of great Communication.
How you look or appear has been greatly undermined in the 'Simple Living High Thinking' ethos in India. Everywhere else in the world people dress 'up' to work, where as many I have met through my Corporate Career believe that they will perhaps be taken more seriously if they dress down. Dressing 'up' not only makes 'you' more confident but the importance of 'looking the part' cannot be emphasized enough before you actually ‘land the part'. Investing in attire that is appropriate, distinctive, sharp is key to be considered favorable, especially given that you have very little at your disposal other than your appearance if a judgement is being made within the first 10 seconds of meeting you?!!
Knowing what looks good for your body type in terms of the choice of clothes and colors is imperative. Much as we may rue the fact- dress and appearance count significantly- all things being equal. As you set yourself up for Leadership roles, your competency is presumed. There are many in the reckoning who may have the knowledge and experience for the job- here appearance can bring you the competitive edge!
How you Act or demonstrate gravitas is the third pillar of Executive Presence. This is perhaps the most difficult skill to acquire if you are not already predisposed towards Optimism, Maturity, Accountability, ability to Confront and the Confidence to speak up.
Gravitas is the combination of knowledge to generate solutions, Ability to speak up, assume Responsibility easily when things go wrong and to remain centered and Hopeful in adversity, while evoking the admiration of others.
Being diffident, speaking of problems all the time, offering suggestions only at transactional levels, inability to deal with Authority, staying away from Conflict, losing Hope easily and complaining about Problems are all signs of poor Maturity and preparedness for bigger roles.
Executive Presence is a reminder that Leadership capability is a series of behaviors rather than a role for Heroes- and the best news is these are eminently developable skill sets and mind sets.
So, Escape The Mediocrity Trap- invest to Develop Executive Presence!
"Toiling away in obscurity and hoping the world will notice has never been a sound strategy."-Harrison Monark