Executives have a particular way of being. They aren’t like everyone else. What is it that sets apart an executive from how the rest of everyone else operates?

Some might say it is the title, the paycheck, and the larger office (or at least corner spot in the open floor plan) that makes an executive. Though these are all typical trappings of being an executive, we have all encountered high-paid, corner office goobers who couldn’t scrape together a business plan if they were producing Shark Tank.

Perhaps our inquiry is aided by the soulful words of country music singer Chris Stapleton who writes, “I’m lonely because I drink and I drink because I’m lonely.” The being of an executive, possibly, is just that: a being. Though there are things an executive does (ex., gives direction, sets context, thanks people) and that an executive might have (ex., broader accountabilities, signing authority, a dedicated admin), these aren’t what makes an executive who they are.

Good News, Bad News

This notion of being an executive is interesting. Once when a long-time coaching client was promoted from senior director to vice president in a large company, he and I celebrated over a glass of champagne. During that conversation I said to him, “You know there’s bad news don’t you?” He asked what I meant.

I said, “There’s three parts of bad news, actually. First, you have just entered a completely new ballgame: the world of executive level politics. Second, almost certainly none of your new colleagues are going to tell you outright how to succeed at it. Third, the game starts now and you’re the worst player.”

Knowing that he was not going to be able to gain 20+ years experience of being an executive any time soon, it became clear to him that he was going to need a new plan. As we talked, I suggested to him that he might not need a new plan, it might be that he might need a new access to this world of the executive.

The new access we talked about was the being of an executive. It’s not about what an executive does or what they have or how they act, it’s about their way of being. Consider what constitutes such a way of being … we’ll pick this up in the next blog on this topic.

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