Executive Presence Book Review: Shital Mehra Kakkar decodes corporate life for all

Whether you wear a Cary Grant-like tight tie or leave the collar open like Hugh Grant, you cannot take corporate dressing for granted. Not if you want to be taken seriously. This is a new twist to the adage of ‘Do not dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want’ and one of the many lessons that Shital Mehra Kakkar gives in her book, Executive Presence.

Is your smile too wide?

The corporate trainer brings all her sessions down into one book which serves as a guide-book for young professionals, college graduates and even mid or high level executives who will know what they have been doing wrong. It encompasses every aspect of corporate life from how to post on social media to body language, and points out how much to talk at a meeting, where to look while someone is speaking to you; and how to smile.

To ease comprehension, Kakkar brings in examples, real-life situations and profusely quotes Indian and international corporate leaders. One of her best examples is that of Mark Zuckerberg where he changed his traditional style of dressing while appearing in front of a Senate Committee. It also points out how Bill Gates chose the dramatic to make a point on malaria by opening a jar of mosquitoes, on stage.

Must you e-mail that joke?

The advisory covers it all — starting from the basic to the minute. It speaks of mindful listening while suggesting the number of slides that should be a part of a presentation. It breaks down corporate behaviour across situations, geographies, etc, providing enough reference material.

Kakkar believes that all this helps the ‘other person’ form a 10-second view about a future corporate leader. According to her, many people have been rejected for top jobs as they failed to make this cut in spite of ranking high on talent, performance and capability. This can smoothen doubts on abilities from a boss, client or an investor’s perspective.

This is especially true for budding entrepreneurs and start-up founders who suddenly find themselves thrown into the corporate world with little ammunition up their sleeves.

Executive Presence Book Review: Shital Mehra Kakkar decodes corporate life for all

The new-age issues

Apart from gender neutrality, the book also covers the amalgamation of non-binary employees like trangenders and those who refuse to identify with a single binary gender as well. This is key for those few entrepreneurs and organizations who are looking to promote inclusivity that the Indian corporate world so critically needs.

The book differs from others with simple language and approach that does not intimidate the reader. It touches the right nerve by not turning preachy or condescending — a tone that is common with most business books. In fact, arrogance and humility is one of the many topics covered by the author.

In the end, Kakkar also included a special chapter for the COVID-19 affected world. As offices are now connected digitally, she brings forth the issues of networking and organizing happy hours virtually in order to belong together as the emergency has scattered offices across the world.

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