All the Leader You Can Be: A book review by Bob Morris

All theLeaderAll the Leader You Can Be: The Science of Achieving Extraordinary Executive Presence
Suzanne Bates
McGraw-Hill Education (2016)

Here’s a “research-based definition of executive presence” with an explanation of how to develop it

Opinions are divided (sometimes sharply divided) about the importance of charisma to effective leadership but there seems to be a consensus that those who aspire to lead can increase and enhance their appeal. How? Develop what’s called “executive presence.”

Here’s what Suzanne Bates has to say about it: “We have a holistic view of the leader as a person and call out qualities often not discussed. As a result, our model of executive presence offers a far richer, more complete picture of each leader in three dimensions: Character, Substance, and Style…The bottom line is that for purposes of assessing executive presence, we believe that labels do not serve leaders well, as leaders often get results and conclude, ‘Well, I guess this is who I am!’ Instead. this model [she devised] is grounded in the philosophy that all these qualities are amenable to change. Leaders can be empowered to take action. That’s powerful stuff!”

Bates provides an abundance of information that serves as the foundation of what she characterizes as “a research-based definition of executive presence.” She also provides a wealth of insights, and counsel that can help almost any reader to develop executive presence, not only in a workplace but in all other domains of human interaction. Moreover, this material can help supervisors to help aspiring leaders among their direct reports to develop executive presence, also.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Bates’s coverage in Part 1 (Chapters 1-4):

o Conducting Theoretical Research to Build a Model, and, A Science-Based Definition (Pages 7-10)
o Building the EP [Executive Presence] Model (8-10)
o Lessons from the Bates ExPI Pilot Study (17-18)
o Conclusions from the Pilot Study (19-20)

o Authenticity (23-25)
o Integrity (25-28)
o Concern (28-31)
o Restraint (31-33)
o Humility (33-38)

o Practical Wisdom 40-42)
o Confidence (43-47)
o Composure (48-52)
o Resonance (52-56)
o Vision (56-58)

o Appearance (60-66)
o Intentionality (66-70)
o Inclusiveness (70-74)
o Assertiveness (78-82)

These are the three dimensions and 15 attributes of executive presence. Then in Part 2, Bates shifts her attention to explaining how executive presence can help achieve early wins, cope with new (i.e. unexpected) challenges, facilitate dynamic interaction, and drive results. I use the term “help” because the most effective leaders serve as energizers, igniting/inspiring self-motivation in others when sharing a compelling vision but as Thomas Edison observed long ago, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Only a sustained collaborative effort can make that vision a reality.

Also, it is important to keep in mind my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

The focus in Part 3 is on executive presence insofar as senior leaders, high potentials, women, and diversity initiatives are concerned. I agree with Bates that executives (i.e. those who execute now face unique competitive challenges in a global marketplace that seems to become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous each day. “A technology revolution has transformed how we work and play in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We have the world at our fingertips and are always connected. Navigating the digital landscape and digital transformation is at once perplexing and exciting for business today. And that’s how it is as we contemplate other changes, including the impact of rising global tensions, unstable foreign economies, seismic demographic shifts, intensifying cyber threats, growing geostrategic competition, and increasing pressure on natural resources. We have more than enough to challenge us.”

We do indeed. Fortunately, there are knowledge leaders such as Suzanne Bates whose books will help prepare business leaders to respond effectively to the challenges they face. Long ago, Oscar Wilde suggested, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Bates takes that sound advice a step further, suggesting (in effect) that those who read her book become the best leader they can be. Presumably she agrees with me that personal growth and professional development are not ultimate objectives; rather, they occur during a never-ending process. That is especially true of executive presence.

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