The Next Level: What Insiders Know about Executive Success

10Review by Alice Waagen

Book by Scott Eblin

Publisher: Davis Black Publishing, 2006

To me, the hallmark of a good book is its ability to bring simplicity to deep and complex topics. Scott Eblin’s The Next Level does just that. His premise is simply this: As one advances to the executive level, he/she must embody certain characteristics and behaviors and delete those that provide little value.

This makes perfect sense, of course. As leaders advance up the organizational ladder, their responsibilities and ability to make policy — and effect change — most definitely grow and mature. So along with any promotion, leaders must focus on how they manage their time and resources.

However, determining exactly what to do differently, and how, can be daunting. Fortunately Eblin’s book provides a useful framework to help leaders make this transition. Based on interviews with 30 successful senior leaders, he concludes that to be successful, those on this uphill climb need to build three levels of executive presence:

  • Personal presence — As a leader, you need to pick up: confidence in your personal presence, regular renewals of your energy and perspective, and custom-fit communications. And you need to let go of: doubt in how you contribute, running flat-out until you crash, and one-size-fits-all communications.
  • Team presence — A leader needs to pick up: reliance on your team, defining to others what you do, and accountability for myriad results. A leader needs to let go of: self-reliance, telling people how to do it, and responsibility for just a few results.
  • Organizational presence — Pick up: looking left and right as you lead, an outside-in view of the entire organization, a big-footprint view of your role. Let go of: looking primarily up and down as you lead, an inside-out view of your function, and a small-footprint view of your role.

I like these three categories because they reflect the primary domains of interaction used at any level: personal (how do I control my own actions), team (how do I interact with my team), and organizational (how do I fit into the larger organizational context).

The bottom line: Although The Next Level focuses mostly on leaders who are about to move into the executive suite, Eblin’s message is applicable to anyone advancing in an organization.