Common myths about women and executive presence
Friday, June 21, 2019
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There’s so much noise these days about executive presence that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Here are a few myths that need dispelling.
The first myth is that if a woman wants to make it to the top, she needs to act like a man. While there’s much we can learn from the men who’ve come before us, that doesn’t mean we have to do things the same way to be equally successful.
The most successful leaders I know, many of whom are women, don’t try to be something they’re not. They’re authentic. That means you’ve got to be yourself. Of course, being a better version of oneself is something we can all strive for.
Find the style of leadership that you’re comfortable with and if you need some help, consider hiring an executive coach who can provide you with unbiased feedback. Work with this person to build upon your strengths.
Another myth about executive presence is that well-groomed leaders naturally look great. Let me tell you something, these people wake up every day looking like you and me.
They have bedhead, bags under their eyes, and shuffle around in their slippers. Their secret is that many have hired stylists to help them project a more professional image.
I discovered this when I was speaking with a female CEO. I commented on how she always looked so well put-together. She laughed and told me about Donna, the personal stylist she hired when she was in D.C., and Sarah, who’s now her go-to gal in Boston.
She said she relies on her stylist to pick out everything for her, including accessories.
If you’re like a lot of busy women I know, pulling a wardrobe together that says, “I’m in charge!” is probably at the bottom of your list.
Well, you need to move it to the top, because people are making judgements every day based on appearance.
Look around and ask a well-dressed executive for a referral to her stylist, or make an appointment with a personal shopper at a one of the higher-end department stores.
Another myth that drives me crazy is that you’re either born with executive presence or you’re not. Sure, there are some people that seem to be born leaders. Then there’s the rest of us. But we can acquire these skills. It just takes a little work — and maybe some outside help — to get there.
It’s hard to make improvements unless you know where to begin. That’s why I suggest asking co-workers and your boss for feedback, about ways you can improve your communication, and your overall demeanor.
Brace yourself. Chances are, you’re not going to like everything you hear. The key is to constructively accept the feedback and then take concrete action to address areas that will make the most impact.
There’s a lot of hype around executive presence. Some of it’s true and some of it’s not. Make it a point to be open to all possibilities.
Pick one or two things that will help you come across as executive material. After you’ve mastered those, pick a few more and before you know it, you’ll be looked at as the example others hope to become!
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