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Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success Hardcover – 3 Jul 2014


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Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success + Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority + Executive Presence:  The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness (3 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062246895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062246899
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 15 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 Jun 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Those who have read one or more of Sylvia Ann Hewlett's previously published books (notably When the Bough Breaks, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps, Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets, and Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor) already know that she is among the most intelligent, sensitive, intuitive, and practical business thinkers within subject areas that range from talent evaluation to organizational transformation. Her focus in her latest book, Executive Presence, is of special interest to me because, for more than 30 years, I have worked with corporate clients to help accelerate the development of talent needed at all levels and in all areas of their operations. I am already well aware of the importance of what she characterizes as the three pillars of executive presence (EP):

o How you act (gravitas)
o How you speak (communication)
o How you look (appearance)

Fair or not, more often than not, candidates for a position who have less merit but greater EP have a decisive competitive advantage over candidates with greater merit but lesser EP. "The amazing thing about EP is that it's a precondition for success whether you're a cellist, a salesperson, or a Wall Street banker." Hewlett wrote this book to help her readers "crack the EP code." Although doing so "can be onerous and sometimes eats into your soul, this work and these struggles will allow you to flower and flourish. Once you've demonstrated that you know how to stand with the crowd, you get to strut your stuff and stand apart. It turns out that becoming a leader and doing something amazing with your life hinges on what makes you different, not what makes you the same as everyone else."

I agree while presuming to add that many people (I among them) have never been comfortable with developing EP.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
How image affects career success 5 Jun 2014
By John Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It turns out that becoming a leader and doing something amazing with your life hinge on what makes you different, not what makes you the same as everyone else, according to Sylvia Hewlett in this book. Executive presence is a measure of image rather than performance; it is the manner in which you signal to others that you “have what it takes” to be star material.

So, what is it that coworkers and bosses look for when they evaluate an employee’s executive presence? The author and her research team at the Center for Talent Innovation used a survey and focus groups to discover the answer, and they found that executive presence rests on three pillars:

• How you act (gravitas)
• How you speak (communication)
• How you look (appearance)

Of these three ingredients, gravitas is said by senior leaders to be by far the most important, followed by communication and then by appearance. However, appearance and communication tend to be significant factors in assessing a person’s gravitas. Projecting confidence, displaying “grace under fire”, tone of voice, body language and eye contact are all important ingredients of gravitas.

A tall, well-built, white male has an unfair advantage in establishing gravitas when compared with women, people who are overweight, people of other ethnicities, and members of other minority groups. Much of the book is taken up in discussing how these cultural prejudices can be overcome. The author is of the view that the best results are achieved by accentuating the strengths that make you different from the white alpha male, rather than by trying to pretend to be a white alpha male.

This book is useful for anyone who feels that they would like to enhance their executive presence, but it is also useful for managers and leaders who need to have their preconceptions challenged so that their workplaces can experience the benefits of greater diversity.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
"Let your light so shine before men...." 17 Jun 2014
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Those who have read one or more of Sylvia Ann Hewlett's previously published books (notably When the Bough Breaks, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps, Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets, and Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor) already know that she is among the most intelligent, sensitive, intuitive, and practical business thinkers within subject areas that range from talent evaluation to organizational transformation. Her focus in her latest book, Executive Presence, is of special interest to me because, for more than 30 years, I have worked with corporate clients to help accelerate the development of talent needed at all levels and in all areas of their operations. I am already well aware of the importance of what she characterizes as the three pillars of executive presence (EP):

o How you act (gravitas)
o How you speak (communication)
o How you look (appearance)

Fair or not, more often than not, candidates for a position who have less merit but greater EP have a decisive competitive advantage over candidates with greater merit but lesser EP. "The amazing thing about EP is that it's a precondition for success whether you're a cellist, a salesperson, or a Wall Street banker." Hewlett wrote this book to help her readers "crack the EP code." Although doing so "can be onerous and sometimes eats into your soul, this work and these struggles will allow you to flower and flourish. Once you've demonstrated that you know how to stand with the crowd, you get to strut your stuff and stand apart. It turns out that becoming a leader and doing something amazing with your life hinges on what makes you different, not what makes you the same as everyone else."

I agree while presuming to add that many people (I among them) have never been comfortable with developing EP. In fact, as Hewlett explains in her exceptionally interesting Prologue, she had the same problem while attempting to gain admission to "Oxbridge" (she was accepted by Cambridge) and later when she began her first job as an assistant professor of economics at Barnard College. Over time, both she and I have learned how to present ourselves more effectively. If we can develop some EP, almost anyone else can...if doing so serves their purposes. Hermits have no ineed for EP.

Clearly, Hewlett agrees with Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." The self-development program she recommends in this book can help a person to reveal more effectively who they genuinely are and suggest who they can become. Authentic (key word) qualities of character connote gravitas, "that weightiness or heft that marks you as worth following into the fire. Gravitas is the very essence of FP. Without it, you simply won't be perceived as a leader, no matter what your title or level of authority, no matter how well you dress or speak. Gravitas, according to 62 percent of the leaders we [at the Center for Talent Innovation in NYC that she founded] surveyed, is what signals to the world that you're made of the right stuff and can be trusted with serious responsibility."

With all due respect to the power of charisma, some of the most evil leaders throughout history possessed it, as did some of the most highly-principled leaders. Frankly, I've always thought that charisma resembles an expensive fragrance: it smells great but don't drink it. There can be no authentic EP without gravitas but that is only one of the three "pillars." Hewlett also explains how to communicate much more effectively, to become more presentable, and in this instance I am again reminded of a passage in Matthew 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." I'm sure that many agnostics and atheists see the need to increase their EP.

Brilliantly, Hewlett explains both how and why.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of her coverage.

o Cracking the EP Code (Pages 5-10)
o The Right Stuff (15-18)
o Speaking Truth to Power (25-27)
o How to Deepen Your Gravitas (39-44)
o Command a Room (54-60)
o How to Polish our Communication Skills (74-77)
o Enhancing Appearance: Tactics (100-105)
o Difficult Conversations -- But Extraordinarily Important (111-113)
o Tactics: How to Get the EP Feedback You Need (116-122)
o A Narrow Band of Acceptability (128-131)
o Gravitas (138-142)
o Bleached-Out Professionals (149-156)
o Tactics: Authenticity vs. Conformity (158-164)
o Understand the Diversity Dividend (165-167)

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is convinced (and I agree) that ordinary mortals can crack the EP code and master the skills that will "let their light shine before men." That light will be powered by gravitas. Also, she urges her reader to be reasonable about making whatever changes in attitude and behavior may be necessary to increase EP. Being yourself can be both good news and bad news. What's the point of continuing to be an authentic jerk? A constant whiner?

And I presume to add one more point: Developing EP is a never-ending process, not an ultimate destination. (Hewlett calls it a "journey.") Be flexible, be resilient...and above all else, be patient but committed. Bon voyage!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Pragmatic advice - Addresses the tough issues 13 Jun 2014
By Bexley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I initially hesitated to purchase this book, since I have a scepticism towards most of the self-help/management genre. I am very glad I picked this book up. It brims with pragmatic advice on the essential topic of Executive Presence. This book is not just for those pursuing positions of power in corporate board rooms. It is for anyone seeking to translate their hard earned merit into just rewards and career progression.
Hewlett artfully balances personal reflection and anectode with relevant case studies and hard data to provide a credible and highly readable volume. She does not shirk from the tough issues faced by many in developing their executive presence.
I came away from the book with a number of practical ideas that I incorporated into my engagement with stakeholders and the board level. Early indicators show encouraging results!
I also found the sections that specifically addressed women to be extremely valuable. As a male responsible for the professional development of female team members, these insights will enable me to support them more effectively and be a better sponsor in terms of their progression. And yes, I have recommended the book to them as important reading.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Code, Cracked 24 Jun 2014
By MMMarshall - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Whether you're aware of it or not, every time you interact with people they're performing a mental calculus on whether you're someone they'd want to take into the foxhole with them. Are you trustworthy? Seasoned in your judgment? Inclined to protect your team? What this book makes clear is how many ways we signal our "leadership readiness" in just about everything we do or say, and even in what we wear or call attention to in our appearance. Hewlett helps us decode what highly effective leaders do, that we might emulate them, but also reveals what WE do that speaks volumes about our courage, competence, and credibility. You'll become conscious of blunders you've made (the first step toward not repeating them); and you'll understand just how, starting tomorrow, you might solicit better feedback so you can start amping up your EP. Incredibly helpful stuff, even for veterans of the corporate battlegrounds.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful insight into a professional mystery! 11 Jun 2014
By Lauren Holtvoigt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read many-a-professional books that vow to give you the magic "key" to success. However, none have hit home as much as this one as it talks about all of the soft skills necessary for success. There is no secret to mastering technical skills, becoming an expert, or knowing your field; however, no one ever tells you that all of your hard work in those areas can be derailed by a bad or negative presence. This book dives into some of those soft skills with real and recent examples in politics and pop-culture. I sped through this book and loved it. It opened my eyes to the true definition of executive presence and how to work towards it.
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