Executive tenure is an important concern for current leadership and succession planning. That being said, a company will suffer if it works with executive leaders who aren’t a good fit. Finding that good fit between an executive leader’s goals and the business’s goals is the focus of All the Leader You Can Be: The Science of Achieving Extraordinary Executive Presence. The book promises to break down the vague “feel-good vibes” you get from a powerful executive leader into a reliable model for assessment and discussion.
What is All the Leader You Can Be About?
All the Leader You Can Be is all about breaking down the complexity of a concept called “executive presence”, defined in the book as “the qualities of a leader that engage, inspire, align, and move people to act.” In short, this is the executive presence behind leaders including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sir Richard Branson or the late Steve Jobs. When these leaders walk into a room, people (whether they are journalists, employees or investors) take notice and listen.
Executive presence, as discussed in the book, is not a static concept. It isn’t something that you’re born with or something that can be easily marked off on a simple checklist. Executive presence is a series of qualities on a continuum that work together to make a comprehensive whole.
To give an idea of how the book breaks down these abstract qualities, readers have to go no further than the fourth chapter entitled “Style.” At first glance, “style” refers to a leader’s clothing and mannerisms. While the book agrees to a small extent, it expands that limited view into something bigger. Specifically, the book includes “appearance” with other qualities like “intentionality,” and “inclusiveness” in its analysis of “style,” which is defined as “a way of doing things.”
Instead of relying on leaders to assess themselves on paper, the book takes special note to include comments from subordinates along with observations from coaches to provide how their leadership works. They also ask subordinates to share their comments with leaders to start a conversation. Why? Leadership, especially executive leadership, doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It always occurs in relation to the people and situations involved. Knowing how leaders are perceived and how their qualities can be a strength or liability in a situation is the key to developing and retaining good executive leaders.
Author Suzanne Bates is a former news anchor who transitioned into the role of CEO coach, author and owner of Bates Communications in 2000.
What Was Best About All the Leader You Can Be?
The best part of All the Leader You Can Be is the emphasis on clarity. “Executive presence” is a very abstract concept to even attempt to measure. Bates makes that attempt and provides the rationale and a large number of fictional case studies to back up this attempt. This provides the reader with an almost encyclopedia-like guide to assessing and measuring executive leadership.
What Could Have Been Done Differently
While All the Leader You Can Be provides a lot of interesting concepts to consider when assessing executive leadership in a truly unique and comprehensive way, there isn’t a particular process laid out for assessing that executive leader. More information about when and how often to assess leaders along with general guidance on how the principles of assessment (under what conditions, for example) might also be helpful.
In short, the book tells you what to assess, not how to do the assessment.
Why Read All the Leader You Can Be?
All the Leader You Can Be is written specifically for two types of people: (1) board members and others who are in charge of hiring and retaining executive leaders (2) executive leaders, themselves. The book provides a comprehensive and fairly standardized way to assess executives from many different angles and also jump starts the conversation process that your executives need to have with their subordinates. The book is also a good self-assessment for any executive leader who wants to enhance their skills as part of their own career development.