I spent the bulk of my career working for three executive officers who sometimes thrived and sometimes struggled at being the leader I know they wanted to be. When I became a CEO, I had the same goal of becoming a solid leader for my staff and membership, but I still fear that sometimes I fall short. This fear drives me to professional development opportunities and attracts me to leadership books in particular. I have a stack I’ve read since becoming CEO of the Stark County Association of REALTORS® in Ohio in 2014, and each one has helped me fine-tune how I approach my duties and the wide range of issues that can arise at my association.
In my latest read, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO, author Harrison Monarth dives deep into how others perceive us and how we can take control and shape those views.
One problem I often notice people struggle with today is being misinterpreted. It may be something said or unsaid, something posted or tweeted, or even what you wear or whom you talk with is often misconstrued.
To shape the narrative about you instead of having it created by others, Monarth says you have to develop “authentic executive presence.” He is brutally honest when he says that you need to look inward to figure out “the good, the bad, and the ugly of yourself” to become a more authentic, empathetic, and self-aware leader. Through case studies derived from his executive coaching work, he illustrates the steps anyone can take to become more self-aware. It’s this true self-awareness that leads to a keener understanding of how you’re perceived by others.
“Although it may seem unfair, the reality is that being skilled at one’s chosen profession isn’t enough. Toiling away in obscurity and hoping the world will notice has never been a sound strategy.” — Harrison Monarth, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO
All this was very inspiring, but the section of this book that I really needed dealt with putting yourself out there, especially in leading meetings and keynote addresses. These types of activities create the perceptions of you as a leader. As an introvert, this was the last thing I felt I was any good at.
Monarth’s advice centers around mastering the art of storytelling and enveloping those in your audience to buy in to what you are telling them. He details how being passionate and authoritative in what you say gains the trust of your audience because, when it comes down to it, language creates reality.
The chapter that turned out to be the most eye-opening covered something I had the least amount of experience with: the art of having a difficult conversation. This doesn’t just mean how to fire an employee, but rather—in our line of work—working with directors or committee members throughout the year. It’s the times when we have to say “no” or we simply don’t agree on an issue. My gut reaction when dealing with tempers and chaos is sometimes to give a quick answer to try to diffuse the situation and just make it go away. However, Monarth lays out a blueprint for navigating difficult conversations that covers everything from preparing for the event and having a clear objective to adjusting your vocal tonality and displaying body language that telegraphs compassion, empathy, and respect. I learned better ways of working through conflict and having these difficult conversations that are needed on occasion in the task of doing our association business. (For more on this issue, see page 20.)
My last huge takeaway in this book was the author’s advice on personal and professional branding—not of the association, but of yourself. It hit home when Monarth said, “Your brand is like a house with good bones—even if bad weather damages the exterior, a sturdy structure will remain standing.” A strong brand brings a stronger reputation. Living this brand will become a lifelong skill you’ll carry no matter where you go. Once you have your brand, you need to go global with it, and by that I mean social media—Facebook, Twitter, and the like. You need to be out there.
Being a leader and having “Executive Presence” is a way of life. This book can be a great asset in helping to achieve such heights in your career.