Many of today’s execs are lacking a quality that makes leaders great

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Wikimedia Commons

When Suzanne Bates and Bill Macaux set out to create a model of executive presence, they wanted to quantify that “special something” that only some leaders seem to have.

Over time, Bates, the CEO of Bates Communications, and Macaux, a management psychologist and former senior vice president at Bates Communications, pinpointed 15 distinct traits and behaviours that comprise executive presence.

Together, they form “the qualities of a leader that engage, inspire, align, and move people to act.”

Those 15 facets — and how to develop them — are the subject of Bates’ new book, “All the Leader You Can Be.”

In an interview with Business Insider, Bates said that when executives come to her for leadership coaching, she finds many of them are lacking in the same quality from the list of 15: vision.

According to the model, vision involves “generating an inspiring, enterprise wide picture of what could be; recognising emerging trends, and engaging all in strategy.”

Leaders who demonstrate vision, Bates said, have the ability to look ahead. Perhaps most importantly, they’re able to make employees feel that they’re “part of something greater than themselves.”

All the leader you can be

Vision is critical when leaders hit what Bates calls an “inflection point” in their careers, or a moment when a professional challenge becomes overwhelming. Their performance under pressure depends heavily on their capacity to organise people around a meaningful cause.

The problem, Bates said, is that vision is “not a muscle we exercise early in our careers,” partly because managers don’t demand it of their reports. So when individual employees ascend to leadership, they might not realise how important it is to demonstrate vision.

Because executive presence is all about how you come across to others, it’s helpful to focus not only on developing vision, but on communicating your plan to your staff.

In the book, Bates highlights a communication tool called the “Big Idea.” Essentially, you boil down complex concepts to one compelling statement of 25 words or less that conveys your vision. The statement should have three parts: a proposal, an outcome, and a benefit.

Ultimately, Bates said, developing and communicating a vision is key to standing out as a leader. Being excited about your organisation’s future isn’t sufficient — you have to inspire and engage others to help create that future with you.

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