Executive Presence

Executive Presence

Do you have Executive Presence?

Do people notice you, listen to you, respect you, seek your advice? If the answer is ‘yes’ you have Executive Presence*. It means power, command, ‘clout’. It says that you will achieve and get things done. It is the single most important requirement for a Top Person – and for those aspiring to be Top People. We also call it Stature, an even better word. Whatever you call it, make sure you have it. Without it you will be like an Emperor without clothes.

When I acquired the Pizza Hut franchises for Singapore and Malaysia we were visited by the then CEO of Pepsico, who owned the franchise. Wayne Calloway was a tall, large, John Wayne sort of figure. We met in one of the Pizza Hut restaurants we had built. He was a man of Stature, the epitome of Executive Presence. The minute we saw each other we knew we would get on. Within five minutes we sent away our teams and sat down alone over coffee to have a long chat about Pizza Hut, Singapore, the world. Within half an hour we were friends. I needed that later on.

Leadership is about who you are rather than what you do. Who you are is, of course, an amalgam of all the things you do, not just the big things. Top People necessarily do big things. They authorise investment, buy businesses, divest unnecessary parts of their business, stimulate innovation. All these are part of their job. So are equally important jobs such as hiring and firing, reward systems and wages, tweaking the business structure. To handle all this with concentration and focus – but also some detachment – requires excellent Executive Presence.

What you need for Executive Presence falls into four categories:
[a] Communication [b] Confidence [c] Behaviour [d] Personal appearance

[a] Communication is a critical asset for someone who wants to been seen as having Stature. Precision is important but by itself it won’t always work. Good communication doesn’t address your needs but the needs of the people you are communicating with. If you were talking to someone of a different language than your own you would use gestures, point to things, check that they where understanding you. We forget that, even when language is the same, understanding is often different. Communication takes time. Executive Presence people devote time to it.

[b] Confidence is an elusive butterfly. You can have it in some situations, not in others. You can be full of it one day, bereft of it the next. It has more to do with your view of yourself than with views others may have. It comes when you know yourself thoroughly and accept yourself totally. We are given an opportunity to be perfect in this world but we never achieve it. Our survival and greed instincts distract us. Also, most people don’t know who they are performing for. When they discover it is themselves the challenge becomes clearer and confidence improves to meet it.

[c] Behaviour is a broad band of personal declaration. From thanking the bus driver to knowing how to handle your cutlery at a Lord Mayor’s Banquet, behaviour defines your respect for others. Many a sound argument is lost because of the behaviour of the advocate. Great opportunities fly out of the window when the inventor or proposer is ill-mannered in his or her presentation. Watch Dragon’s Den and see how simple good behaviour wins investment faster than egregious kow-towing or over-assertive demand. Good behaviour defines you to others.

[d] Personal appearance is the set of the show. As a Top Person (or Aspiring) you must set the scenario before the play starts. Our initial assessments of people are instant. They aren’t always right but they often are. How you look is important as the backdrop to what you want. If you are seeking investment in a new, high-tech startup your potential investor will judge you on how you look even if s/he denies that. Look techie by all means but also look as though you can handle money. That is what impresses them. Personal appearance ranges from the tilt of your head to the shoes you wear. Personal appearance is the easiest personal statement you can make.

Executive Presence can be learned. It requires relatively little time, some tough exercises and plenty of day-to-day good practice at work and beyond. If you want to do so please contact me at john.bittleston@terrificmentors.com. I’ll tell you how it works.

And I’ll tell you why my friendship with Wayne Calloway turned out to be so important. That’s a story of intrigue, lawyers, Concorde flights across the world and coffee in White Plains.

And Executive Presence par excellence.

*To learn how to acquire Executive Presence contact us at john.bittleston@terrificmentors.com