Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Too Hot to Handle

water and fire fist fight
(Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay) 
This topic is probably too hot to handle, but here we go.

Did you watch the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show? What did you think?  I saw very few "meh" comments or emojis on my social media feeds. What I can tell you is my friends either loved it or hated it. Shakira and J Lo had people talking. But did Shakira and J Lo have command/executive presence?

I have never been one for watching the Super Bowl, let alone the halftime show. I am in it for the commercials. This year I was so disinterested that I worked on my taxes while my husband and our friends chatted away. Only one of us was remotely into the game and the commericals really didn't hold anyone's interest. It was the halftime show that got our house talking and lit up my social media feeds for days. What was it that caught our attention? It was more than the fireworks and the shock and awe of the wardrobes and body movements; it was something less tangible and much bigger. I saw it as command/executive presence.

In her book Executive Presence, Sylvia Ann Hewlett describes executive presence as:
  • a combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity - Check; at least the first and last
  • an alagram [blend] of qualities that telegraphs that you are in charge or deserve to be - Check
  • a measure of image: whether you signal to others that you have what it takes, that you're star material - Check
Both Shakira and J Lo are skilled performers; and as such have a lot to tell us about command/executive presence. Each woman, separately and together, commanded the attention of millions of people around the world. Whether you feel their performance added to or detracted from their ability to hold your attention probably has more to do with your value system than anything. There is little doubt that either woman lacked confidence or authenticity. Both were in charge of the stage and had star power.

Hewlett proposes that executive presence rests on three pillars:
  • How you act (gavitas)
  • How you speak (communication)
  • How you look (appearance)
This is brings me to something else that Hewlett talks about in her book—appearance. We have all heard that initial impressions can make or break you. True story. Hewlett calls it a "critical first filter." I am sure many a viewer were affected by those first few minutes of the performance. After that first impression, appearance doesn't really affect command presence. Granted leaders must be well groomed and polished, but that is something we can learn. Both women were well groomed, polished, and fit for command.

Are J Lo and Shakira the type of leader you would follow? Maybe not, but I believe they had what it took to command the stage and their audience. Could they have done some things differently and appeal to viewers? Maybe, but value systems are just too varied to please everyone. For some they were just too hot to handle.

Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

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#2020WFLDPCampaign #commandpresence #fireleadership

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