How are we STILL not getting it right?

Gallup[1] just released a new study on what leaders need to focus on in 2022.  The results should not be surprising:

  • Communicate often and clearly
  • Develop managers to lead and retain teams
  • Workplace wellbeing is a differentiator; make it a priority

In my 30-year career, I’ve seen these themes recur time after time after time. How are we still not getting it right?

This is going to hurt some feelings, but I’ve seen that the root cause of poor culture is often a reflection on how the executive leadership team operates.

  • Ego drives decisions instead of humility
  • Executive presence is lacking in communication, meetings, and engaging with all levels of the organization
  • Emotional intelligence is a phrase that’s used, not practiced

What do I mean?

Humility is easy to understand but difficult to embrace. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people; freedom from pride or arrogance; the quality or state of being humble”. None of us will ever be 100% humble, but this trait can be practiced and learned.  It’s called “Servant Leadership”. 

The ideas behind servant leadership are ancient, but Robert K. Greenleaf is the person who first articulated them for our time.  In Greenleaf’s 1970 seminal essay The Servant as Leader, he proposed that the best leaders were servants first, and the key tools for a servant-leader included listening, persuasion, access to intuition and foresight, use of language, and pragmatic measurements of outcomes.

“The servant-leader is servant first…
It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve,
to serve first.”
Robert K. Greenleaf

Executive Presence is comprised of seven traits: composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity, and conciseness and is also achieved through practice.  Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine your level of executive presence:

  • How well do I control my emotions – especially when I am upset, angry, passionate about something, or not feeling heard?
  • How well do I connect with others who are dissimilar to me?
  • When someone is speaking to me, what else am I doing?

Here’s a lesson learned – i.e., don’t do this – scenario.  And yes, this really happened.  We were going through another layoff.  Another round of letting go 250 employees. I was passionate that we could provide other solutions to our financial situation and proposed a number of alternatives to the CEO, including salary redistribution, flexible work schedules, changes to work hours, minimizing overtime, and being open and transparent with our employees about the economic situation of the business and our industry.  Reflecting on this conversation, I recognize that I lacked most of the executive presence traits – including composure (I was overly passionate), lacking connection (he wasn’t in the frame of mind at that time to listen or consider alternatives), I was aggressive (versus confident), and I was all over the place with my message (lacking clarity).  Note to self – consider the receiver’s state of mind before launching into alternatives. 

Regardless how great the ideas were, my approach,
lack of executive presence, and inability to read my audience derailed me.

Emotional Intelligence (“EQ”), like executive presence, can be learned and continuously honed. It is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one's goal(s).

Ronald Reagan embodied these characteristics well.  A plaque on his desk in the oval office reminded him of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s sage advice: There's no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit. President Reagan’s ability to embody executive presence (maintaining his composure with charisma and confidence) while also being aware of his emotional state, that of the audience, and of his opponent (emotional intelligence), came through clearly in the 1984 presidential debate.

Leaning into servant leadership and acquiring the traits of executive presence and emotional intelligence are difficult to do alone.  My experience, knowledge, and expertise can be a great resource to drive personal and professional development to help you become the leader you would want to follow.

The executive coaching program I offer includes individual coaching, monthly peer group meetings, and a ton of resources to help you better develop your executive presence, emotional intelligence, and humility to drive greater success in your organization.  

As executive leaders, we know it’s lonely at the top. 

Our colleagues, spouses, and friends are great to vent to, but how are they driving you forward to change and realign your mindsets, behaviors, and habits?

Are you ready to take the first step?  Your first peer meeting is complimentary – come as my guest, stay as a member.   

Let’s chat. 


P.S.  Book a Complimentary Strategy Session so we can get you moving in the right direction; click on my Complimentary Strategy Session calendar link here and let’s book a time together so you can get started today!

P.P.S. With over three decades of professional experience in corporate operations and executive human resources, I am a proven results-driven leader. My expertise includes strategy, change management, talent management and organizational development, employee relations, and executive and leadership coaching. I am a highly effective communicator and team leader with demonstrated ability to build long-term relationships across internal and external customer environments built with integrity, confidence, authenticity, and trust.

[1] What Leaders Should Focus on in 2022 (; Accessed 1/25/2022