I was lucky enough to attend a Harper’s Bazaar breakfast to listen to author Sylvia Ann Hewlett talk about Executive Presence. Sylvia, despite being a tiny woman can definitely command the room with her presence, simply by the eye contact she makes with her audience and frequent but timed pauses in her speech to allow the weight of her words to sink more deeply.
What is Executive Presence?
‘EP is an amalgam of qualities that true leaders exude, a presence that telegraphs you’re in charge or deserve to be.’
Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, a Manhattan-based think tank. Instead of listing off her very extensive and impressive curriculum vitae, I will just tell you that this is one very accomplished woman. Sylvia, from a poor mining community in Wales, certainly did not grow up with privilege and these are her words, not mine. She taught herself how to have executive presence as a way to move up and be successful. As much as we don’t want to believe that people judge us on our looks, they do. Sylvia explains this doesn’t have to do with being beautiful and thin but has more to do with having style and good grooming and hygiene habits.
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.
Wise words of advice to get ahead include surrounding yourself with people that are better than you, that will challenge you to be your best. Another tip was to drive change rather than be changed which is self explanatory. The book talks through how to exude confidence and credibility and signal that you are leadership material. Hewlett reveals EP to be three things: how you act (gravitas), how you speak (communication), and how you look (appearance).
I would recommend this book for anyone who is wondering how to get that promotion or recognition at work and to be more effective in your communication with your colleagues.