Leadership Material: How Personal Experience Shapes Executive Presence

Leadership Material: How Personal Experience Shapes Executive Presence

by Diana Jones
Leadership Material: How Personal Experience Shapes Executive Presence

Leadership Material: How Personal Experience Shapes Executive Presence

by Diana Jones


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How do you become influential? What are the qualities that ensure people are drawn to you? And how do you develop these?

Personal experience is the raw material for building executive presence.

Viewed as "touchy feely," intangible and invisible, most leaders separate their personal lives from their professional ones. Executive coach Diana Jones argues that this is unwise. In fact, the "soft side" of leadership - empathy, compassion, and authentic communication derived from personal experience - is both powerful and essential to enhancing executive presence, influencing others and achieving results.

Through compelling stories and examples from Jones's coaching sessions, readers will learn how to make enduring behavioral changes that will produce better business results and create alignment among disparate groups using empathy and leadership language.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781857886887
Publisher: Mobius
Publication date: 04/25/2017
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Diana Jones brings over 30 years of experience in coaching and leadership development, working with CEOs, managers and teams as they manage change and strive to achieve exceptional business results. http://diana-jones.com/

Read an Excerpt

Leadership Material

How Personal Experience Shapes Executive Presence

By Diana Jones

Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Copyright © 2017 Diana Jones
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-85788-688-7


The Demise of the Rational Leader

This chapter debunks the myth of the rational leader. The belief that being logical and rational is the only route to leadership has steered leaders' development in the wrong direction. It's time to redress the balance.

The long-held belief that successful leaders are rational is not true. What is true is most leaders are capable of being rational when appropriate. If rational decisions always worked, we would have solved the enduring world problems of poverty, violence, and sustainable living long ago. Leaders who only focus on technical skills will discover that these won't help them have essential conversations or manage difficult situations. Such tools and techniques don't cut the mustard in leading people; they are only part of the picture.

How do you become influential? What do people want from you at the leadership table? What are the qualities that ensure people are drawn to you? And how do you develop these?

People like the idea of a rational leader. The assumption that rationality is better than any other way of working devalues leaders' personal experiences. Why on earth would we do that? The rational leader values thinking, reasoning, and facts over all else. They believe feelings are soft and fluffy — immaterial at best and irritating at worst. By valorizing rational leaders, we fail to acknowledge that leaders are people, and leaders need people to get things done.

After working with hundreds of different teams, both high-performing teams and ones facing difficulties, I discovered many leaders have a blind spot. Astutely aware of their strengths, they were unaware of how they negatively impact others. I identified three distinct types of leaders:

1. Those who understand how they are perceived, both positively and negatively. These leaders possess the quality of executive presence. They are confident, influential, and know how to work effectively with others.

2. Those who focus on how they are perceived negatively. Leaders in this group, while competent, lack confidence and are often stressed. These leaders may be perceived positively by their staff and peers, yet they are too hard on themselves and ultimately lack presence. They downplay their good reputations and ruminate on their own feelings. They lose their focus on how they assist those around them.

3. Those who do not care how they are perceived. They have their way of doing things, which seems to work — for them at least. These leaders are perceived as technically able and hard on people.

People's perceptions of their leaders matter. You know you're on the right track when people come to you for help or seek your counsel and advice.

From my coaching practice, I have learned that

1. Navigating the soft side and people dilemmas are a leader's most time-consuming problems.

2. The experience people have of working with you is just as important as the results you produce — and largely determines the results.

3. Leaders gain confidence when they accept their fears and anxieties.

Executive presence encompasses at least five essential leadership qualities. These invisible qualities

• Define your identity as a leader.

• Determine your credibility.

• Establish your reputation.

• Shape the relationships you have.

• Reflect your authenticity.

Each one helps you produce highly visible results. As we will soon see in detail, if you

• Gain insight into what creates influence,

• Identify sticking points in your way,

• Discover the source of any ineffective behaviors,

• Develop the capacity to change your behavior,

• Are perceived and sought after as a leader,

your capacity to inspire and influence and have greater presence increases dramatically.

Emotions Matter

Have you ever been in a dysfunctional meeting? Have you met leaders who argue, shout, grandstand, sulk, and withdraw? How on earth could this be? Leaders in dysfunctional teams act as if they were kids back in the sandpit, tossing their toys and stalking away in anger or withdrawing hurt and bewildered. Once the meeting ends, cliques form, and you are either in or out. Established ground rules are forgotten or ignored.

I decided that the "toys in the sandpit" analogy was worth pursuing. After much exploration, I discovered a significant relationship between earlier life events and current leadership behavior.

Understanding why people behave in certain ways is unimportant; the main thing is how you respond. With this in mind, there are three keys to influencing successful business outcomes:

• Be aware of your own response to others' behaviors.

• Know where your response originates.

• Understand your current impact on others.

Leaders with presence are aware of the likely emotional responses that others have to their actions and decisions. Their communication and interactions reflect this.

Having a capacity to be rational is important. By being rational, you can

• Distance yourself rather than being immersed in details.

• Remove yourself from the swirl of emotions.

• Make assessments and see options objectively.

Rationality enables you to weigh things up and accurately consider different options. However, it is only one part of the puzzle.

Behavior has at least three components: thinking, feeling, and action. Generated from our relationships with others, feelings are the physiological litmus test of our experience and inform our thinking. But acting from our feelings alone leads to impulsivity. When our thinking informs the actions we take, we are more likely to respond appropriately. The third component, irrevocably intertwined with the other two, is the action we take in response to our thinking and feeling.

Herein lies the problem. There are frequently two common misunderstandings made when praising rational leadership. The first is that considering the opposite of rational as "irrational," or "emotional," has diverted the discussion to discount some essential leadership capacities.

The second misleading element is that while some leadership theorists identified emotions as significant, they may have misunderstood their function.

Rational leaders may well have the capacity to think analytically so that objectivity and logic come to the fore. But discounting feelings and acting solely from rational thinking can result in others regarding them as cold and impersonal. Only a portion of their capacities are utilized. Their intuition, insight and foresight, and life experience have been excluded. I have found when leaders integrate their thinking, feeling, and action, people are affirmed, relationships are strengthened, and work progresses.

Champions of rational leadership emerged as management theorists of the 1920s. Henri Fayol (France) and Frederick Taylor (United States) saw authority vested in positions, not in personalities. In the same period, Max Weber (Germany) described three types of legitimate authority, one of which included the leader's personal qualities:

Traditional authority: arising from tradition and custom

Charismatic authority: where acceptance arises from loyalty to, and confidence in, the personal qualities of the ruler

Rational-legal authority: arising from the position of the person in authority and bounded by the rules and procedures of the organization

These theorists saw leaders within structured settings with prescribed roles. Results were achieved through leaders influencing the efforts of others with their ascribed authority. Emphasis was on structure, and leaders focused on what was "good for the firm."

Champions of rational leaders had at least two blind spots. They believed:

1. People follow orders. Stanley Milgram's famous experiment proved this while also revealing the anxieties, concerns, and fears of people who follow cruel directions.

2. Organizational structures help people work together.

But this is not the full story. People are drawn to leaders with whom they want to • Discuss problems.

• Share their thoughts and responses.

• Share how they feel about what is going on.

People want a sense of belonging and being valued; they want to influence what is happening whenever they are with others. Most organizational structures fail to account for this softer side of life, but leaders who can harness it can achieve profound results.

Good working relationships are essential for establishing executive presence. People with presence build positive mutual relationships, including with others they don't know well. These relationships are essential for producing results. Leaders do not need to have all the answers; what they do need is the capacity to adapt to shifting contexts and to keep relating to people around them.

The Earth Is Flat — The Rational Leader Is Obsolete

All is not what it seems. Just as people once thought the earth was flat, many leaders still think that leaders' technical qualifications, objectivity, and rational decision making are the keys to producing results. I have another view — that qualifications, skills, and abilities are just one part of the puzzle.

That emotions have been part of organization life was reinforced by Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, and more recently Gianpiero Petriglieri, who said, "To distressed people in troubled times, the least rational leaders make the most sense." Eyal Winter has shown that although "emotions are thought to be at odds with rationality, they are a key factor in rational decision making."

I agree that leaders' emotions are central to their functioning. And I bring another perspective: I have found that emotions are reflected in at least two factors that greatly influence leaders' capacities for presence and inspiration. These are:

1. How they work with people to get things done

2. How people around them experience working with them

Over the past three decades, much of my work with highly skilled and able leaders has focused on developing their capacities to integrate thinking, feeling, and action to create working teams and inspire others to action. They have done this through how they relate to others, rather than treating them as automatons who follow orders and do what they are told. Their work is to be "with" staff. They reject the notion of their staff "following"; rather they encourage staff to participate.

Two examples come to mind. One was in a federal bank where the leaders were all economists. The leaders directed the technical work; they used logic, reason, and numbers to make decisions and ignored leading people. Highly skilled and experienced staff, many also economists, were underutilized, bored, and frustrated.

The second example arose when I was contracted to advise on implementing a restructure in a city council.

Positive working experiences are essential for achieving results. Leaders may have all the technical and professional skills in the world, but if they rub their peers or staff the wrong way, this results in people moving away from them. They may even refuse to work with that leader. The leader's capacity to be effective grinds to a halt. Then the time-consuming and expensive work of repairing working relationships begins.

The rational approach to leadership led us to believe that our professional identity — such as leader, nurse, or worker — was the complete picture. But it is wrong to assume that professional identity alone is enough to compel people to listen to you. Would you respect the leader who disregards you, the nurse who is unable to listen, or the community worker who acts as if they are the boss and know exactly how things should be done every time?

If you favor the rational approach, you might be shocked to discover the leader has fudged the numbers, the nurse is highly anxious and makes mistakes with medication, and the community worker is out of their depth. Rational behavior is not synonymous with unethical behavior, but looking at personal qualities beyond the job title is essential to getting an accurate picture.

You can learn much about a leader by studying how they enact their professional identity. Enacting your professional identity generates five significant responses:

• How others perceive you

• The impact you have on others

• Your capacity to influence

• Your effectiveness in producing results

• The willingness of others to work with you

We know now from the demise of Enron, the global banking crisis, and many recent political downfalls that many revered, rational, and highly successful leaders snort cocaine, use company money for their personal lives, and lie to support their success. The rational approach fails to account for people's relationships and human frailties. We can learn from others that it is everyday interpersonal and group behavior that is central to leaders' producing results.

Houston, We Have a Problem ...

On the one hand, we are independent, resourceful practitioners in specialized fields. On the other, we are embedded in social systems — whether we like it or not. We are leading people, not "things." Being a leader means you are likely to have many progressive behaviors; otherwise, you would not have attained your leadership role. Progressive behaviors are behaviors that

• Build relationships.

• Get work done.

• Produce enduring solutions to complex problems.

• Generate flexible, creative, original, and relevant solutions.

• Produce vitality in those involved in and affected by decisions.

Leaders' capabilities can be divided into two main categories:

1. Skills and abilities, such as financial management, project planning, strategic thinking, business analysis, and decision making

2. Qualities and capacities, such as listening; reliability; inclusiveness; and being forthright, fair, empathetic, and thoughtful

Experience and focused learning allows us to develop our skills and abilities as well as our personal qualities. This combination of capabilities is what creates trust. However, to achieve results we must be aware of our impact on those around us and maintain trusting relationships.

Our behavior — our responses to people and events — emerges from our experiences. The trial and error of life. As you progress in your career, you continue to encounter new experiences and new contexts. Some of your behaviors inevitably show up as problematic. These can become habitual. You may be aware of them or not, but they become apparent to others and affect the quality of your results. Your peers may sense you have more to offer.

Have you ever had the experience of coming out of a meeting thinking, Now that didn't go well? You might have had such anxiety over your performance that you lost sleep. If so, you have uncovered a default behavior.

Everyone has certain behaviors they default to when they are under pressure. They become our way of coping with stressful situations. As we progress in our careers, work contexts change. When specific default behaviors become overdeveloped, problems occur. We might cut people out by letting our reactive thoughts, feelings, or actions dominate our responses.

Overdeveloped Behaviors Are Inflexible

Overdeveloped behaviors are obvious to others and frequently become roadblocks to our effectiveness. You feel you have no choice in how you respond, even if it is unhelpful, and others will notice that something isn't quite working. Generating choices at these moments is central to any leader who wants to develop executive presence.

Default behaviors often result from unresolved early family events where our survival was at risk. As children, we had few resources to handle the complex situations life threw at us. We did our best at the time, making different assessments and decisions depending on the circumstances — for example, "People in authority are stupid"; "No one is doing anything here, so I had better take charge"; or "The best thing right now is to become invisible." However, there is fallout. If those around you failed to discuss your experiences or comfort you, your childhood ways of thinking, feeling, and acting become entrenched.

We may have coped through such actions as going silent, taking control, giving up, or simply enduring. Feelings of shock, anger, or fright become entwined with our way of thinking and acting. Old memories and their associated feelings can be triggered by events and relationships in the present day.

The Neuroscience of Behavior

Neuroscience gives us a way of understanding how the conscious and unconscious brain function, particularly with respect to our impulses and choices in organization life. The brain's limbic system is responsible for positive emotions, including tele and empathy, and their linkage to memories of sounds, smells, and feelings. (We will return to this in chapter 3.) The amygdala manages survival impulses and our ability to move toward, be still, or move away from people with our flight, fight, and freeze responses. In contrast, the neocortex manages our curiosity to investigate different groups and to consciously choose to move toward or away from them.


Excerpted from Leadership Material by Diana Jones. Copyright © 2017 Diana Jones. Excerpted by permission of Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Foreword xix

Introduction xxi

Chapter 1 The Demise of the Rational Leader 1

Emotions Matter 3

The Earth Is Flat-The Rational Leader Is Obsolete 9

Houston, We Have a Problem … 13

Overdeveloped. Behaviors Are Inflexible 15

The Neuroscience of Behavior 16

Progressive Behavior 20

The Leader's Dilemma 21

Shifting Default Behaviors 22

Diving into the Wreck 24

Discovering Early Influencers 24

Chapter 2 How to Show Up in a Meaningful Way 29

Personal and Professional Qualities-Differentiated, Not Separate 29

How Is Trust Created among Leaders? 31

Shared Experiences Underpin Relationships 33

Real Leaders Are Close to the People They Lead 38

First Impressions Count 38

Social Intelligence 40

Why Would Anyone Want to be Led by You? 44

Leaders and Their Relationships Create Culture 47

Whom Do You Choose? 48

The Leader as Detective 49

Chapter 3 How Relationships Work 53

Doubt and Confidence 55

Making Sense of Relationships 55

Empathy 58

How Do You Demonstrate Empathy? 59

The Tele Connection 59

Reading and Responding to Invisible Forces 67

Closeness and Distance with Different Leadership Approaches 68

Emotional Expansiveness 69

The Past Influences the Present: Memory and Behavior 70

Familial Relationship Networks Meet Organization Structures 71

Chapter 4 Perception Is Everything 75

Knowing How You Are Perceived 76

Self Perception: The Ego 78

The Opposite of Strong Ego Is Low Self-Esteem 80

Developing Self-Perception 83

Learning Methods That Work 84

Shifting Perceptions 86

There Will Be Surprises 89

Developing Interpersonal Perception 89

Coming to Grips with Mixed Perceptions 90

Chapter 5 Seeing the Mirror 93

Building Self-Respect 93

What Do the Stats Tell Us? 94

The Demise of Feedback 95

The Killer Elements of 360-Degree Feedback 96

Lead with What You Know 97

The Difficulty with Performance Feedback 98

Feedback from Managers Doesn't Work 98

How Do Leaders Learn? 100

Shifting Gears 100

Crossing the Line 102

The Shock of Learning 103

The Four Criteria for Effective Mirroring 106

Direct Is Best for Some 106

Chapter 6 What Is Professional Development? 109

What Is Being Developed? 110

Personal Development for Professional Success 112

Three Levels of Learning 113

Making Relationships Visible 117

Increasing Your Visibility 120

Generating New Approaches to Old Situations 123

Embedding Learning and New Behaviors 124

Chapter 7 The Fine Art of Identifying Outcomes and Success Measures 127

Three Goals Are Enough 128

Leaders' Typical Executive Presence Outcomes 129

How Do You Measure Success in Leadership Development? 134

Identifying Personal Metrics for Presence 136

The Success Indicator Tracker 137

What Makes This Work? 138

Simple Shifts Have Powerful Impacts 139

Professional Success from Personal Indicators 139

Big Benefits Result from Behavioral Learning 140

Organization Metrics 142

Deciding Who You Want to Involve in Your Development 144

Chapter 8 A Leopard Can Change Its Spots 149

Changing Behavior Is Possible 150

Metaphors Matter 151

More Insights with Chris 155

Circuit Breakers 159

No Size Fits All 161

Just Whose Business Is This? 163

Integrating Thinking, Feeling, and Action 164

Chapter 9 Final Touches: The Language of Leadership 167

The Two Messages 168

Each Word Is Important 169

So What Really Matters? 170

The Communication Paradigm Is Changing 170

New Approaches Are Required 170

Specificity and Tone 171

Why People Can't Hear You 172

Three Simple Words Pack Power 172

The Language of Collaboration and Engagement-"You" and "We" 173

Talking to People or about Them 174

Generate Questions to Include Everyone 177

The Language of Accountability-"I': and "You" 178

Impersonal and Passive 178

The Language of Differentiation-Leading Your Peers with "I" 179

More Refinements 180

Greetings Matter 181

The Language of Anonymity-It 181

Nailing That Interview with "I" 182

Chapter 10 Powering Away from the Usual Suspects to Inspiring Others 189

In Praise of Peer Relationships 189

A Source of Glitches 191

What Are Typical Overdeveloped Default Behaviors? 193

Yes, Two Worlds at the Same Time 194

Find Cause, Not Blame 194

Some Relationships Don't Work 195

Discovering a Behavioral Glitch 197

You Are the Boss 200

Bibliography 203

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