Ever wonder why there are so many senior personnel and CEOs in India who are being asked to leave? Some peremptorily and others over a decent period of time. Whichever way the company decides, the end result is the same – they are letting go of the people who were appointed as leaders in their organizations. Considering that the rate of these dismissals has gone up over the past ten years by an incredible 300%, this poses a very pertinent question: Why are these people hired and then fired? In fact, most people in senior positions are being hired and then asked to leave within a year and a half and the main reasons being cited are not performing to expectations and not projecting leadership qualities.
What this means is that without executive presence today, the going is very tough for anyone in a senior position in India. Maybe performance is also linked to this because a high potential talent needs leadership skills in order to carry a company with him as he reaches for targets. Today, the top people in an organization need to lead from the front and they need to command respect and acceptance.
What exactly is this executive presence all about? Ask people and they will tell you it’s a quality that is felt rather than seen and very often, it is a sum of many qualities that add up to this one aura. All we know is that when someone with executive presence walks into a room, you know, you just know. It’s a quiet, understated, latent power that can be felt and the person attracts immediate attention. He could be tall or short, thin or really overweight, good looking or not – and yet, all this does not matter because the positive and powerful aura he exudes is what people react to.
Some might be ‘born with it’ but they have to hone it till it becomes a strength. Others can acquire it and be confident in the knowledge that when they do, they have a much greater chance to stay at the top without being toppled or phased out. Either way, there is a learning process involved and you need to know that you can train yourself to acquire this skill that seems almost magical. What you also need to know is that once you’ve got it, you don’t need to flaunt it. It makes itself felt and you’ll find that people are more than willing to listen to you, do business with you, promote you, be inspired by you and allow themselves to be led by you. It’s what every leader needs to be aware of and needs to acquire. With executive presence on your side, the sky really is the limit.
So what is it that the people who don’t have it lack? They lack the commanding presence, for one. That quality that sets a person apart and makes heads turn when he enters. That quality that makes people listen to what he has to say and what his viewpoint on a subject is. That quality that accepts him as their leader and makes people want to follow him. Leaders who don’t have this can be seen to falter when they need to take command. They tend to lose their poise in moments of crises when presence of mind is needed. They get agitated in situations that are tense and cannot be on top of the situation when it is expected of them. They take failure badly and cannot get up immediately and try to put things right. They are not organized and they find it difficult to inculcate a team spirit in their group.
It goes beyond to physical characteristics as well. You’ll find they cannot stand up tall and take control. People in power should send out non-verbal messages through their body language that they are in control and yet very much a part of the team. They have to be unflappable and they have to lead. Sloppy dressing, weak handshakes, being shift-eyed and unwilling to take centre-stage are all manifestations of a person who lacks executive presence.
The good thing is, this core leadership competency can be developed or acquired if you put your mind to it. Get the right experts to guide you and take you through courses that will transform you from a person with a weak presence to a strong one and you’ll see how easy it is to stay at the top. One step at a time, one skill at a time and you’ll get to that room at the top, the room with a view from where you can lead, not follow. Executive presence gets you there and keeps you there.