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Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success [Hardcover]

Sylvia Ann Hewlett
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

3 July 2014

Are you “leadership material?” More importantly, do others perceive you to be? Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a noted expert on workplace power and influence, shows you how to identify and embody the Executive Presence (EP) that you need to succeed.

You can have the experience and qualifications of a leader, but without executive presence, you won't advance. EP is an amalgam of qualities that true leaders exude, a presence that telegraphs you're in charge or deserve to be. Articulating those qualities isn't easy, however.

Based on a nationwide survey of college graduates working across a range of sectors and occupations, Sylvia Hewlett and the Center for Talent Innovation discovered that EP is a dynamic, cohesive mix of appearance, communication, and gravitas. While these elements are not equal, to have true EP, you must know how to use all of them to your advantage.

Filled with eye-opening insights, analysis, and practical advice for both men and women, mixed with illustrative examples from executives learning to use the EP, Executive Presence will help you make the leap from working like an executive to feeling like an executive.


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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: 11,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“A solid guide for those looking to take their career to the next level” (-Publishers Weekly)

“Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book is essential reading for anyone striving to minimize the gap between how others perceive you and how you want to be seen. Executive Presence will transforms careers and unleash a current of previously untapped potential on the world.” (Joanna Coles, Editor-in-Chief, Cosmopolitan)

“This is a powerful and urgent book for young professionals climbing the ladder. Credentials alone will not get you the next big opportunity, you also need Executive Presence - the ability to signal confidence and credibility. ” (Sallie Krawcheck, Business Leader, 85 Broads)

“Sylvia Ann Hewlett has taken some of the mystery out of the claim that “you just don’t have what it takes” in this groundbreaking book on Executive Presence. This book provides a simple guide that will help you crack the code to career success.” (Katherine W. Phillips, Paul Calello Professor of Leadership and Ethics, Columbia Business School)

“Sylvia Ann Hewlett has put together the complete play book for high potential employees eager to develop the executive presence skills that will propel them to the top. In this book Hewlett explains what EP is, and how to get it. It’s real, pragmatic and brilliant!” ('Tiger' Tyagarajan, President and CEO, Genpact)

“In this significant book, Sylvia Ann Hewlett challenges the conventional wisdom that executive presence is an innate quality that can barely be defined, much less developed. Anyone seeking to close the gap between their merit and their success could benefit from her practical, engaging, and humane advice.” (Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law, NYU School of Law)

“Sylvia Ann Hewlett is once again leading the way by examining a critical component of business success, Executive Presence. She is a master at making a vague topic clear. She demystifies the meaning of Executive Presence and provides tangible, practical advice that readers can easily use to lift their game.” (Anré Williams, President, Global Merchant Services, American Express)

From the Back Cover

Do you exude confidence and credibility? Can you command a room? Sylvia Ann Hewlett, one of the world's most influential business thinkers, cracks the code of Executive Presence (EP) for men and women intent on winning the next plum assignment and doing something extraordinary with their lives.

You might have the qualifications to be considered for your dream job, but you won't get far unless you can signal that you're "leadership material" and that you "have what it takes." Professionals are judged on presence as well as on performance. 

Using a wealth of hard data—including a new nationwide survey and dozens of focus groups—Hewlett reveals EP to be a dynamic mix of three things: how you act (gravitas), how you speak (communication), and how you look (appearance). She also draws on in-depth interviews with a wide selection of admired leaders to reveal how they embody and deploy key elements of EP. 

This book is immensely practical. Hewlett teases out tactics that can help you raise your game and close the gap between merit and success. She offers the unvarnished advice you won't get from supportive friends and tackles head-on such touchy subjects as too-tight clothing and too-shrill voices. She shows how the standards for EP vary for men, women, multicultural, and LGBT employees, and she shares how to get meaningful feedback from politically correct bosses intent on avoiding the real issues. 

The good news is that EP is eminently teachable. You can learn how to "show teeth" while remaining likable, and you can teach yourself how to dress appropriately while staying true to yourself. You don't have to be born with the voice of James Earl Jones or the looks of Angelina Jolie to hurdle the EP bar. With hard facts and vivid examples, Hewlett shows you how to ace EP and fully realize your unique potential—no matter who you are, no matter where you work.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let your light so shine before men...." 17 Jun 2014
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "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!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The subtitle of this immensely useful book, is “The Missing Link Between Merit and ... 22 July 2014
By Ian Mann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Is an executive position part of your career goal? Do you have the necessary skill and experience? Are you wondering why you are not there yet?

The subtitle of this immensely useful book, is “The Missing Link Between Merit and Success.” Based on my 22 years of working closely with people in executive positions, I know she has hit the mark – Executive Presence (EP) is the missing link.

This is not the first book on looking and sounding like an executive, there have been many before. However, Sylvia Hewlett’s take on this issue rings true where other books I have read left me with a discomfort that something is missing from the explanation.

There are two reasons for trusting this book. The first is that Dr Hewlett lived the problem she has tackled in this book. The second is that she has been able to do a piece of credible research that turns the “woolly and elusive concept” of EP into a clear, securely founded, practical model. “Which is why I wrote this book,” she explains.

Dr Hewlett grew up in a Welsh mining community, had few clothes, no social graces and spoke English with a thick working-class accent. Despite her formidable intelligence, she failed her interview for a place at Oxford University despite qualifying, because she was so inappropriately dressed for the situation. (Not knowing any better, she had dressed like the Queen Mother!)

She also qualified for Cambridge University and after the interview at which she dressed more appropriately, was accepted into the University.

She taught Economics at Barnard College (associated with Colombia University) where she initially had difficulty convincing anyone she was a professor and not a student, and was not taken seriously by faculty. Aged 27, (which is very young for such a position,) she her hair waist-long and wore flowing ethnic skirts. “I now understand that my early struggles to command attention and respect in lecture halls and faculty meetings did not center on content or delivery (I was a clear, crisp speaker and knew my material cold), but rather centered on the way I presented myself.”

If the first reason for trusting this book is the author’s personal experience, second reason, is the research conducted through the Center for Talent Innovation, where Dr Hewlett is President and CEO. Her research team conducted a national survey involving nearly 4,000 college-educated professionals. Included in the cohort were 268 senior executives. The research aimed to ascertain what co-workers and executives look for when they evaluate an employee’s EP.

Without Executive Presence, no one attains a top position, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant following. Executive presence is not a measure the person’s ability and performance, rather it is a measure of the image you project that you “have what it takes, that you are star material.”

Each year the Concert Artists Guild hosts an international competition. From an applicant pool of 350 instrumentalists and singers from all over the world, 12 extraordinary young musicians are brought to the Merkin Concert Hall in New York City where a distinguished jury judges the finalists.

What emerges with regularity is the importance of non-musical factors in the final judgement. Did the musician smile, exhibit confidence, make eye contact with the audience, and so on?

The world of work is no different.

Executive Presence is comprised of three pillars that apply across all industries, all business types and all economies. The specifics differ vastly. What is required in a high-end law firm is not the same as in a chain of supermarkets, a hospital, or and marketing firm.

The three pillars are “Gravitas” how you act, “Communication” how you speak, and “Appearance” how you look.

These pillars are not of equal importance. “Gravitas” was identified as mattering most by 67% of the 268 executive in the survey. “Gravitas” implies knowing your field exceptionally well.

“Appearance” might seem to be highly important from my introduction to this column, but it is not, rated only 5% of what makes up Executive Presence. “Communication” was rated 28%.

Gravitas is not only projecting intellectual horsepower, but also having the confidence and credibility to get heard and accepted. Gravitas has six components.

The first is confidence and projecting “grace under fire”. It is when under attack that this element of EP shows. We know we are in the presence of a leader when he or she remains calmly in control in the most difficult of circumstances.

Then there is decisiveness, holding to a carefully thought through position and being threatening if necessary. Behind this is integrity, being able to “speak truth to power,” where others are not.

While decisiveness and confidence signal conviction, courage, and resolve in a leader, when these are not accompanied by empathy, they look like egotism, arrogance, and insensitivity.

A leader’s reputation needs to be nurtured and guarded because it goes before one has even appeared. Finally, leaders need a vision.

Effective communication, the second pillar of Executive Presence is critical. As I have written a number of times in the column, a brilliant idea poorly presented sounds like a poor idea.

A great comfort emerges form the research conclusions on Appearance, the third pillar of Executive Presence. Appearance is defined as “grooming and polish” rather than “physical attractiveness” or “body type” according to the respondents. These, fortunately, can be corrected where “physical attractiveness” or “body type” usually cannot.

“Crack the EP code you’ll be first in line for the next plum assignment and be given a chance of doing something extraordinary with your life,” asserts Dr Hewlett. To do that, read this book. It is an easy read full of accounts of familiar business executive and other leaders. The book will keep you engaged as you learn this most crucial lesson.

Readability Light -+--- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High -+--- Low
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