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Executive Presence: What Nobody Ever Tells You about Getting Ahead

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,042 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Are you "leadership material?" More importantly, do others perceive you to be?

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a noted expert on workplace power and influence, shows you how to identify and embody the Executive Presence (EP) that you need to succeed. You can have the experience and qualifications of a leader, but without executive presence, you won't advance.

EP is an amalgam of quali
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by HarperBusiness
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3.58  · 
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 ·  1,042 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library, non-fiction
I am trying to read more business related books. This one was ok. I found the empirical data to be interesting, but most of the book is for people who are recent graduates and entering the business world for the first time. I found the author's advice to be very basic. Some examples are "look people in the eye when you speak to them", "have a firm handshake", "don't dress like a whore, because it confuses men" and "fat men are ok, unless obese, but women need to be fit and trim", etc. Interestin ...more
Catherine Read
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is excellent. Not so much that it's groundbreaking material, but the research and personal stories validate what most of us already know about what it takes to be perceived as a "leader." To get the most out of it, you need to be in the frame of mind that values "what it is" over "how it should be." While the book is not gender specific, author Sylvia Ann Hewlett's research points to the greatest challenges for potential leaders and those challenges happen to fall heavily upon women an ...more
Laura Thompson
Aug 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
Perhaps this would make a good article, but it is very drawn out and boring as a book.

There isn't new information here - look your best, be your best, and speak your best.

This book agitated me for these 4 reasons:
1) Using Angelina Jolie as a positive example for anything
2) Endorsing plastic surgery
3) Recommending heavy make-up
4) Overuse of the word gravitas and the phrase "show your teeth"
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
First, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review here. And I am really glad I won it. I'm not sure that I would have sought out this gem otherwise. It's incredibly approachable prose with enough recent, high-level examples to maintain credibility. But the focus for each example is always on the point, not the people, so it doesn't devolve into a name dropping session.

When I started reading, I could immediately see how it might help me in the workplace where there is much jocke
Well worth the read. Her concepts are well defined, and her priorities based on research. She offers actionable approaches (and at the end, some guidelines) for managing the impression you make on three key areas: gravitas, communication, and appearance. The first part of the book is written in a way that, in my opinion, is useful to anyone. I have already put some of what I learned into action, and have seen it make a difference. The second half of the book is focused on the special problems of ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly pleased about Sylvia’s nod to authenticity particularly for people of color. Bravo!
Sarah Hayes
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book has been circulating around the Risk Management group at work, but I found it really forgettable. While it was short already, it could have been summarized with:
“Be calm under fire. Don’t stand out with your business clothes or accent until you’ve made it big. Then you can do whatever you want. “
Preaching reformation of an accent as a business technique was especially strange for me. The examples of good and bad executives throughout the book lacked substance
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid. This author would be worth reading more of. Concrete, applicable thoughts and tactics for increasing executive presence. The focus on appearance was especially interesting. There were many references back to survey data, and I’m not sure that was all that compelling (N=264, and often the author would call out 5% differences as if they meant something important). But the larger points of the book still stood [despite what I considered to be noise about percentages of respondents who though ...more
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Executive Presence (EP) is another way of describing your personal image, and is here defined as a mixture of three pillars - act with composure (gravitas), practice how and what you say (communication), andbe mindful of how you dress (appearance). EP is held to a different standard for women, minorities, and LBGT communities, mostly due to the high percentage of white men who hold high level management positions. The real-world examples lend a tangible weight to the points at hand, but the mess ...more
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A right balance between hard facts and real life stories

A right balance between hard facts and real life stories

This is the first book of Sylvia Ann Hewlett I read. The book is extremely well written and easy to read and to understand, even for a non native English speaker like me. the three "pillars" of Executive Presence (EP) are well introduced and explained:

1. Gravitas: how you act
2. Communications skills: how you speak
3. Appearance: how you look

Sylvia then explains with hard quantitative an
May 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book through Goodreads and was eager to read a woman's take on what might be lacking in the workplace to hold people back. I found the format of the book a bit underdeveloped. Short stories if notable people littered the book to provide examples of the issues advanced but lacked closure or any real tie to the discussion. Often there wasn't even a closing sentence to sum up the section. Many of the propositions advanced were very simple and I found myself wondering who the book was wri ...more
Renee Dougherty
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
- confidence and grace under fire
-decisiveness and showing teeth
-integrity and speaking truth to power
-emotional intelligence
-reputation and standing/"pedigree"
-vision and charisma

-superior speaking skills
-ability to command a room
-forcefulness and assertiveness
-ability to read a client/boss/room
-sense of humor and ability to banter
-body language/posture

-being polish and groomed
-physically attractive, fit, slim
-simple, stylish clothes that position you for next jo
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and highly recommended for all professionals. It's important to note that the book offers some solutions, but you will also need to find someone in your office that you trust to give you feedback.
Mary Beth
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
good reminders. We've either experienced or witnessed these things. improvement is always a work-in-progress for me :)
Deedi (DeediReads) Brown
My reviews can also be read at

"It is executive presence—and no man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant following without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us we’re in the presence of someone who’s the real deal. It’s an amalgam of qualities that telegraphs that you are in charge or deserve to be."

Where to begin? There were things I liked about this book, and there we
James Yu
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This book had a very Lean In-feel to it. It’s the first professional development book I’ve read that spends a non-significant amount of time talking about implicit bias in the corporate world against women and minorities. Like Sheryl Sandberg’s book, it has a practical prescription of working harder to overcome those limitations that is both admirable and sort of a let-down. But the fact that she spends so much time even acknowledging the problem makes it noteworthy for this genre.

The key word o
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I appreciated seeing the results of what executives in the corporate world view as important: gravitas, communication, and appearance, with multiple sub-categories for each. This information is important to know so we all know what is consciously and unconsciously expected from others.

However, the author was downright schizophrenic with her advice. Sometimes the advice was to wear more makeup, lose weight, lose your accent, wear heels to be taller, ask for feedback because male bosses are scared
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a good book for someone starting out, or for someone about to go to the next level. The author tells it like it is, and a lot of it is not pretty: women and minorities are judged harshly in ways that have little to do with their ability to do the work. Hewitt’s goal is not to defend this reality; she acknowledges the unfairness and the fact that non white, non straight, non male workers are walking a vanishingly thin line. But then, for those who want to play the game, she tells you how. ...more
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I am trying to read more business books and I saw someone recommend this on Pinterest. As others have said, if you are newer in your career, this would be good. Some of the advice was good and I had received it only earlier career. Don’t dress too provocative, dress for the job you want, the way you talk is judged, etc. As a woman, I know there is inequality in corporate America for women and minorities. I have minority women working for me and I’d be hesitant to have them read this book. I feel ...more
Melanie Emerson
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was recommended by a book club of women dentists. I was a bit disappointed because I expected something that would tell us things we didn’t already know. Most people already know the difficulties of women, lgbt, and minorities having to overcome challenges to get respected in a white male led country. I did appreciate the research but not really the premise of this book telling women that they have such a small window and balance and pretty much have to be perfect to have gravitas.
Svitlana Nova
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: self-help
This book would have been better as a series of articles: gravitas, communication, appearance, with a much smaller word count for each. I found it hard at times to get through the pages of the advice as the content density was pretty low.
I would have also moved the "you can't win as a female" chapter earlier in the book. At least then I would have viewed the rest of the book with the hope that it would tell me how I can win. Instead of taking 75% of the book to reach a conclusion: oh, and btw i
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Executive Presence on meetings:
"Do not speak unless you have a really good point or insight to add. Pick your target, pick your moment, and fire your best shot." "If leading a meeting, take charge immediately by offering a bold statement. Do not do small talk or ask about people's weekends or family. 'Here is what I need, here is my objective. Let's get started.'" Executive Presence is a must read for any manager.
Shahnaz B. Ahmed
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good but not great

When the book started it leaned heavily on looks and while the book makes its point, I felt it was beating a dead horse mentioning looks several times. I gave it 4 stars because there’s a lot of usable content. Some attributes I feel were rushed. Some parts went from one vignette to another to another teach us about the principles of EP except I was getting lost in what principle was being focused on. Felt similar at times. In general, worth the read.
Deepa Krishnan
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. One of those books where you go "yes yes I am going to try this and transform my life overnight" but then if only we could change by reading a book.....
Nevertheless, I like such books coz it gives you something to work with and opens a new perspective. I would recommend this.
Ryan Barretto
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
The author shares information on what we can do to look good (visibly), and also asserts that this should be backed by valid content and delivery.

It is written in a story format, with plenty of examples, however, not all of them are complete as to "what happens next" after they implement a strategy. For me, this is a gap, and hence success or failure of a strategy seems incomplete.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
At least in my company, this book rings very true. From the makeup of who seems to get ahead to the differences between how the same characteristics are interpreted differently when shown by men and women.

It provides a good framework for areas to focus on to develop as a leader.
Anthony Korolev
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nice book with detailed review of executive presence phenomena. To be an executive you should look and feel like one. It is a long road to follow. A lot of attention is given to women leadership and minorities.
LaTricia Frederick
Great, tangible advice

Enjoyed learning the foundation of executive presence and the practical advice that is highlighted in this book. Excellent read for current and future executives or those desiring to move up the ranks.
Jessica Muhlenkamp
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pretty good read, a lot of examples from real life. It was a bummer that my audiobook from the library didn't have the visual aides mentioned in reference to studies on women and makeup because that seemed really interesting.
Tizgel High
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Needed executive insight

There are no profound new insights, but the information is useful and honest. A good read and helpful guide to help leaders emerge and hit their highest potential.
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Pillar Good Reads: Bookclub Reads - EP 1 6 May 07, 2018 10:06AM  

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“It is executive presence—and no man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant following without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us we’re in the presence of someone who’s the real deal. It’s an amalgam of qualities that telegraphs that you are in charge or deserve to be.” 2 likes
“In this regard, professionals of color may hold an edge. In focus groups we conducted, countless participants confirmed that being a minority is itself a relentless exercise in reading others in order to anticipate and overcome reflexive bias or unconscious resistance.” 0 likes
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