Rohit Bassi

Apr 24, 2020


Executive presence can easily be explained through a movie character. At the conclusion of the Academy Award-winning film Dead Poet’s Society, there is a moving scene in which Robin Williams’ entire class stands on their desks and repeats the lines “O Captain, My Captain”.


While this is a touching show of loyalty, it is also a testament to the leadership qualities that Williams’ character, Mr Keating, embodies throughout the movie. Rather than barking orders and insisting solely on discipline, Mr Keating shows himself to be a professional with a wider set of tools. In the end, he inspires those around him and achieves results through respect and trust, rather than fear.

In fact, Mr Keating is a prime illustration of some of the key aspects of executive presence. Focusing on these areas can help you take your business from simply coasting to rapid and dynamic success.

Critical Thinking

Throughout the film, Mr Keating doesn’t just expect his students to memorise books and regurgitate information. In one memorable scene, he has the whole class rip out pages of their textbook. Mr Keating knows that in order to get his students to truly tap into their potential, he needs them to think independently and critically.

In the business world if your employees are just engaged in monotonous work with no expectation of thinking outside the box, you are not getting the most out of your team. Similarly, if you are just going through the motions in your working life, then you are not making the most of your skill set.

Consider each project and issue carefully. Ask yourself: how can I improve this situation? How can I add value, and negotiate any issues with a clear and focused mind? In order to become a dynamic leader, it’s paramount that you seek out meaningful solutions, rather than resigning yourself to despair.

Creativity and Innovation

Mr Keating doesn’t expect his students to become interested in literature overnight just by reading the words of others. Instead, he encourages his class to become actively involved, such as creating their own poetry while jumping off his desk. This might sound a little unorthodox, but the film clearly illustrates how these out-of-the-box methods allow the teacher to inspire and encourage his pupils.

So, why did they find him so motivating? It’s simple: Mr Keating encouraged creativity and innovation. This is one of the key principles of executive presence that can be applied to any situation.

By embracing a lighthearted, inventive atmosphere that encourages creativity, you can rapidly motivate both yourself and others around you. Results will become more dynamic and arrive more quickly when barriers are removed.

Listening and (Emotional Wisdom) Emotional Intelligence

Another aspect of executive presence that Mr Keating demonstrates throughout the film is the ability to truly hear and appreciate the words of others. Rather than just appearing to listen, Mr Keating genuinely pays attention and this allows him to connect and problem-solve effectively. At one point, he offers the sage advice: “There is a time for daring and a time for caution, and a wise man knows which is called for.” This kind of emotional intelligence allows Mr Keating to be active, but never reactive.

Executive presence is all about cultivating this kind of emotional intelligence and resilience. The best leaders are able to offer compassion and empathy to others while having the fortitude and self-control to act calmly during times of pressure. The business world is often an unpredictable and volatile environment, and it’s necessary to develop these crucial traits in order to thrive and climb higher.

It’s never too late to work on developing and improving the key aspects of executive presence. When you reach out to the universe with success in mind, success finds its way back to those who seek it.

As Mr Keating instructed his students: “Seize the day.”

Written by:

Rohit Bassi


Apr 24, 2020