You may have never heard of Ken Eder (an amazing person with outstanding executive presence) and now you have. May I recommend that you take some time to know this individual, in my books it is well worth knowing this persona.
Ken’s name suddenly came rushing back into my memory. My neural pathways somehow or the other reconnected to remind me of him. I have not seen this charming gentleman for years. If memory serves me correct the last time I interacted with him was in May 2003, the year I had to leave Veritas Software.
Why did he enter into my thoughts? Why after so many years did he “boom” appear into my thinking? Why of all places while riding my bicycle (yup, not a motorbike) across the chaotic traffic of Hai Phong, Vietnam, did his name and face appear in front of my eyes?
Simply put because of “Executive Presence”. Yes, that is correct “Executive Presence”. Seniors in my field have been nudging my brain by constantly saying “narrow your focus on your key deliverables”.
That is when it hit me that I have great admiration for Ken. From what I recall of him he was not just a great technical engineer, he had “Executive Presence”. And “Executive Presence” is my key deliverable in the work I do. Unfortunately, there is a myth and a complete lie across the globe that “Executive Presence” is for seniors, executives or leaders. It is a strength that is needed at all levels (cleaner to the CEO). A strength that could allow anyone to advance in their careers, businesses and lives.
“Executive Presence” needs to be at all levels. It not just for leaders or managers and Ken was one of those few people at a young age truly showed “Executive Presence”. There are numerous definitions of “Executive presence”. It is not rocket science, in simple terms it is your leadership (everyone has leadership attributes or some define it as self-leadership) gravitas (a quality that shows natural authority), levitas (a quality that can lighten the mood) and decisiveness (having that higher emotional intelligence to stay calm in tough situations). In other words, when you connect with others do you have it, the X-factor? Are you demanding (domineering/ tyrant with an ego) or commanding (worthy of a respect/ person of integrity)? Are people willing to stop and listen when you speak (not out of fear or the title you hold)?
When I met Ken he was in his early 20s and I was in my mid-20s. Both of us are from different backgrounds, experiences and cultures. From the moment we met there was mutual respect, rapport and trust between both of us. Today, I would easily define him to have an amazing “Executive Presence”.
There are many aspects to “Executive Presence”. For example:
- Bates Executive Presence Index™says it is a three-dimensional model of character, substance, and style.
- Andrew Bryant (one of my mentor’s, a thought leader in self-leadership) says it the ability to project confidence and gravitas (substance) under pressure.
- Sylvia Ann Hewlett as her book title says it all “The missing link between merit and success”
All of them are correct and Ken fits all three of these. In fact of what I know of him, he fits all these sayings of “Executive Presence” for four simple reasons. The shortfall for most of us is that we ignore these crucial four elements and then we wonder were is that missing link to our success.
Ken taught me four simple (but very profound) things about developing “Executive Presence” and he has no clue that he was one of the many teachers for me. The four things he taught me:
- Listening – Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia and lived in Rome until his banishment, when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece for the rest of his life. Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. One of his greatest quotes which is so much relevant in this day and age is “we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”. I recall in all our meetings, discussions or disagreements (few of those) Ken would actively and empathetically listen not just with his ears but with his whole body. His poise, body language and eye contact would clearly indicate he was paying and giving attention, listening to the listener. He would only voice his part if and when necessary.
- Critical Thinking – Many say that this is all about intellect. Yes, it is about thinking clearly and rationally. And that means to think by integrating both your brain and heart. It is about eliminating the confrontation between what the brain thinks and what the heart feels. Only by integrating the two we arrive at a point where we think with greater clarity and make better decisions. Ken certainly had a natural ability for this. I recall how he interacted with a team member, our line manager or even a client. He would intuitively consider the other parties feelings and at the same time give attention to the reality of the situation. In this manner come to a sound decision which was mutually beneficial for all parties involved.
- Speaking – Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidiki, in the north of Classical Greece. Many considered him to be a great orator of his time. He was known to teach leaders the art of public speaking and would ask his students to look into three things that would make the talk extremely powerful. These being ethos (credibility & trust) pathos (emotions & values) and logos (logic & proof). Well when Ken spoke people listened, and it was out of respect (and he held no position of authority in the company). He had the ability to deliver his message through the simple philosophy of “less is more” and his conversations would have the elements of ethos, pathos and logos.
- Higher Emotional Intelligence – People who have worked with me, listen to or read my work know that I do my best to work through compassion. And emotional intelligence is a great supporter of compassion. Many make emotional intelligence unnecessarily complex when it is not. It is all about the ability to identify and manage your own emotions. Especially those low energy emotions of angry, frustration and irritation. From what I know of Ken, he was no alien or superhero like we see in the comic books. He was a superhero of self-compassion and compassion for others. Yes, I had seen him angry during certain interactions, or frustrated when a case was not being resolved or just irritated when the grey British weather was sucking the life out of him. In all scenarios he would transform from the low energy state to a neutral or high state of energy. A trait which very few have in our early 20s.
Trust Ken has evolved in these four simple yet powerful elements of “Executive Presence”.
Going down memory lane some would label Ken as an introvert but he was not at all like that. Unfortunately, many misunderstand such a persona. Introverts are usually categorised into being non-communicative, low on energy and submissive. This is far from the truth. I prefer to say an introvert has a great appreciation for alone time. It gives them the opportunity to recharge, reflect and introspect with their inner being and Ken fits that bill. And yes, he had amazing “Executive Presence” and guess what he was neither a senior, executive or a leader.
The inaccurate label of being shy, distant and being nervous is too far-fetched. Introvert tend to hear “come out of your shell,” and such a statement towards them is very distasteful. And now when I look back into time and recall all the interactions with Ken he had amazing “Executive Presence”.
It does not matter if you labelled yourself as an introvert or an extrovert. Both labels have the ability to ooze “Executive Presence”. Yes, it is required for seniors, executives or leaders but it is a strength that is needed at all levels (from the cleaner to the CEO). A strength that could allow anyone to advance in their careers, businesses and lives.