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Author, economist, and consultant Sylvia Ann Hewlett understands how the game is played.
It doesn't matter if you're a visionary. It doesn't matter if your brain spouts top-notch ideas like a neural geyser. If you don't possess the essential characteristics of executive presence (EP), very few people will take you seriously as an achiever. If you can't conduct yourself professionally, it's going to be a lot harder to accomplish your goals.
Projecting a strong image of yourself is especially important for groups of people who have historically been marginalized in the workplace, notably women and people of color. It's unfair, yes, but until age-old social structures change, these are the rules we have to abide by. Success means adaptation, and Hewlett wants to help you achieve both.
Executive presence, as mentioned in the title of Hewlett's book, is the missing link between merit and success. It's a combination of signals that instill in other people a confidence in your abilities. Strong EP communicates leaderly skills, lofty ambitions, and a certain degree of privilege. Convince your colleagues and peers that you are someone to be taken seriously and the road to good fortune shall be paved before you.
As mentioned in the clip above, the three essential tenets of EP are:
1. Gravitas — Do you signal intellectual horsepower in the way you act? Does your presentation communicate a heightened level of expertise within your field?
2. Communication — Can you get your ideas across? More importantly, can you be heard? Personal conduct only goes so far. It must be augmented with an ability to reach other people.
3. Appearance — Not just how you dress, but also how you move. Body language can be your best friend or worst enemy, as you'll want to project poise in everything you do. This is critical to supporting the communication of your gravitas.
Hewlett's workshop expounds on each of these three core qualities. How can you influence someone's subconscious recognition of your expertise? What are the best tactics for communicating innovative ideas? In what ways should you adjust your physical language?
The most important takeaway from this lesson is that the content of your ambition relies heavily on execution. The message, in many ways, is secondary to the method. But if you can master the skills behind executive presence, the things you say and believe will become that much more interesting to your audience.
For the complete executive presence workshop featuring Sylvia Ann Hewlett, be sure to check out Big Think Edge.