August 27


Do You Have the Leadership “X Factor”?

By Sara Canaday

August 27, 2012

blind spots, career, leadership, self-awareness

Most of us have watched it happen in the workplace. There’s a go-to person in the organization who gets everything done. Never misses a deadline, never forgets a detail, but never gets promoted into a senior position. Meanwhile, others break through to the next level. Leaders listen to them; subordinates recognize their authority. What do those people have that the other highly competent manager lacks?

Some professionals become known as implementers rather than leaders, and they get pigeonholed as what I refer to as a Perpetual Doer. Organizations can’t function without some Perpetual Doers who delight in making lists of tasks and marking them off. They do the work that propels the corporate machinery forward. They can see that their contributions are making a difference. And they are often quite surprised when they discover that their promising careers are suddenly stalled instead of speeding along in the fast lane. It is hard to make a case against their achievements and sheer tenacity. These talented employees have frequently done everything asked of them, and they’ve done it well. And yet, they just don’t seem to be good candidates for leadership at the next level. Something is missing.

In the corporate world, that missing ingredient is often referred to as executive presence. Most people recognize it when they see it, but quantifying it is almost impossible. People with executive presence are perceived as confident, influential and calmly yet firmly in charge. They can command attention in a room without saying a word, and they know how to accurately “read” the world around them (from political cues to their col¬leagues’ emotions). They actively search for the inevitable blind spots and perception gaps that could potentially damage their professional reputations—and they correct them. Essentially, these people possess the business “X factor.”

Believe it or not, the somewhat-elusive skills collectively described as “executive presence” frequently represent the only dif¬ference between an outstanding professional who gets marooned in middle management and one who seems to effortlessly rise in the corporate power structure. So how can you start to change your reputation in the workplace, positioning yourself as someone who has that elusive business X factor? Here are a few specific strategies:

•Take ownership of your career trajectory and map out a development plan for your professional progression.

•Seek input from those with whom you have a good relationship and who already exude executive presence.

•Redefine your own value—first to yourself, then to others. Start thinking of yourself as a thought leader with a clear value proposition.

•Seek additional opportunities outside your immediate role so you can showcase a broader range of leadership skills.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about executive presence and the role it plays in your work environment.

To learn more about Perpetual Doer syndrome and many other professional hazards, I hope you’ll visit to order my new book: You – According to Them: Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career.

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

  • It’s sexist to say that chsticreriatacs like assertiveness, confidence, boldness and aggression are quintessentially male.The reason successful women display these qualities in a business setting is because these attributes are demanded of anyone, male or female, who wishes to succeed. There are plenty of effete, passive men who can’t hack the cutthroat nature of the business world. And as for the trousers, there are men in business who would look at a woman’s breasts and legs before they listen to her speak (no surprise there!). The trousers preclude this from happening, and display the requisite seriousness.

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