Book Review: Executive Charisma
by D.A. Benton
Six Steps to Mastering the Art of Leadership
Executives who have their eyes set on the corner office will first need to learn a few skills before they can reach their goal. Although charisma, self-confidence, poise and energy are skills everyone would like to be born with, most leaders are still looking for "the ability to gain effective responses from others by using aware actions and considerate civility in order to get useful things done." This ability is executive charisma, and D.A. Benton, the head of an executive development and career-counseling firm, has many words of advice for leaders that can help them become more effective and find greater success.
Executive Charisma revolves around Benton's "Sacred Six Steps" to becoming an outstanding leader. These are:
- Be the first to initiate.
- Expect and give acceptance to maintain esteem.
- Ask questions and ask favors.
- Stand tall, straight and smile.
- Be human, humorous and hands-on.
- low down, shut up and listen.
Throughout her book, Benton expands each of these concepts into a complete chapter that analyzes the practice and delivers advice that can help leaders put a human face on the skill, and understand simple ways to put the idea into practice. While providing expert advice, she also provides numerous examples from politicians, CEOs, celebrities and academics who have succeeded by embodying the behaviors she introduces.
Add Substance and Style
Benton's research reveals that hard work is a starting point, but the missing piece in the puzzle that can get leaders further in their careers is charisma. Her suggestions are the finishing touches that can add substance and style to a leader's store of resources for meetings, public appearances, and public speaking.
The author's recipe for leadership success begins with a healthy portion of integrity. This includes living up to your word and exhibiting behavior that would make your mentor proud. Next, she writes that integrity gives leaders the confidence they need to conquer fear and apprehension, while earning the confidence of others. While using integrity and confidence to communicate and relate, a successful leader must also offer full disclosure. Benton writes that this means being direct, clear, "disarmingly open," and straight in every verbal and nonverbal communication. Great leaders tell people what they need to know, early and often, and create a sense of accountability. Openness and humbleness build a bridge to those who are being led while no disclosure builds a wall.
These elements are the firm roots on which Benton's Sacred Six Steps grow. She writes that the first skill a leader must master is taking initiative. Leaders must know how to seize opportunity before they are ready, and start something. To do this, they need to put their fears aside (or at least out of the way), take action with determination, and be consistent by having the discipline to keep trying.
Next, Benton reminds leaders that they will not be accepted if they don't expect acceptance from others or give the feeling of significance to them. Thinking others are adequate, treating others as though they are adequate, and giving acceptance even when people don't seem to deserve it are the keys to developing this crucial skill.
When describing the importance of asking questions, Benton explains that leaders must know how to choose their words and tone carefully, keep their questions organized, and volunteer information without being asked. To help leaders do this, Benton offers a number of solid questions they can ask that can enhance their communication skills and style. She writes that asking somebody for a simple, specific favor, and thanking them, is a great way to maintain that person's esteem.
Other advice from Benton's treasure chest of improvements that leaders can make include: deciding to live life with a healthy, poised posture; smiling; telling a good story to make a point; and touching others to show openness and humanness. To round out her approach to a better leadership style, Benton reminds leaders they should appreciate the power of silence, listen more, and slow down to find a proper pace.
Why We Like These Books
Executive Charisma contains thousands of valuable suggestions about how people can carrying themselves like a leader and behave in a way that makes them more effective as people, whether they are in charge, or would like to be. Drawing from the experiences of leaders, social scientists, politicians and her own wealth of knowledge, Benton has filled every page of her book with pertinent reflections on demeanor and style, and sound business advice.
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