Have you ever been told you need to work on your executive presence…
…and were completely confused as to what that meant?
What exactly is executive presence? Executive presence is a term used to describe the ability to project confidence, poise, and leadership gravitas in the workplace. It is a combination of qualities that enable a leader to command respect and trust from their peers and team members. Executive presence is not something that can be taught, but rather something that is developed over time through experience and practice. It is a combination of communication skills, body language, and personal style that can be used to demonstrate leadership and influence.
At its core, executive presence is about projecting confidence and authority. It is about being able to communicate effectively and confidently, while also being able to read the room and adjust your approach accordingly. It is also about having a strong sense of self-awareness and understanding how your actions and words can affect those around you. Demonstrating executive presence in this day and age (we like to call them modern, mindful leaders) requires a combination of self-awareness, mindful communication skills, and the ability to read the room. With practice and experience, anyone can develop the skills necessary to demonstrate executive presence and become a successful leader.
What is Executive Presence?
Executive presence is not just about having a strong presence in the boardroom, but also about having the ability to communicate effectively and inspire others.
We may say a person has a certain je ne sais quoi, which literally translates to “I don’t know what” in French, but we do know, so let’s break it down.
Think of the best leader you ever had. I’ll bet they had some sort of combination of excellent communication skills, emotional intelligence, body language, and personal style. It’s incredible to recognize how your body language can affect the way you are perceived. For example, maintaining good posture, making eye contact, and speaking with a clear and confident voice can all help to project a sense of leadership (cc: one of my favorite Deadheads Amy Cuddy and her pivotal Ted Talk on power posing).
Additionally, having a well-groomed appearance and dressing appropriately for the occasion can also help to demonstrate executive presence.
Finally, having a strong command of the subject matter at hand and being able to articulate your ideas clearly and concisely can help to demonstrate your expertise and authority.
The Top 3 Components of Executive Presence
Executive presence is a combination of qualities that make up a leader’s ability to command respect and influence others. It is the ability to assess the situation and then project the appropriate amount of:
It is the ability to communicate effectively and to inspire trust and loyalty in others. Finally, it requires the ability to be self-aware and to recognize the impact of one’s words and actions on others.
How to Demonstrate Poise, a key attribute of Executive Presence
Positive executive presence is about having the right attitude and demeanor based on what the situation calls for, aka situational leadership. This means being able to speak clearly and confidently, and being able to listen and respond to others in a respectful manner. As a leader, it also means being able to make decisions quickly and decisively, take the appropriate level of risk when necessary, and inspire and motivate others.
If your head is spinning, don’t worry. This is why executive presence often requires years of practice and experience in a leadership role. The more practice you have, the more poised you can be.
Keep reading for tips on how you can demonstrate poise, even if you don’t have as much experience as you’d like.
Developing Confidence as a foundation for Executive Presence
The key to developing your leadership and executive presence is to be mindful of how you present yourself. This means being aware of your body language, your tone of voice, and the words you use.
How does one become more aware of these things?
By intentionally seeking feedback. This is why all of The NU Company’s coaching engagements start with a 360 review.
If you’re not able to gather formal feedback, ask a few people whose opinion you value and who you trust to give you the whole truth. Yes you want to lead with your authentic personality, but it’s also important to understand how your managers define executive presence – there’s usually a wide range of definitions. Then, using that definition, ask your trusted colleagues if and how you demonstrate those qualities. If you don’t, ask what you can do differently going forward.
You can also model a successful person at your organization. What do they do when leading a meeting? Delivering an important presentation? How does their demeanor shift according to what kind of situation they’re in? What do they act like when they’re frustrated? Concerned? Disappointed? What makes you want to follow them? Getting clear on these things can help you emulate their style (just be sure to do it in a way that makes sense and still feels authentic for you).
The more you learn about your strengths and development opportunities, then work to enhance those, the more confident you will be come in your own skin.
Tips for Enhancing Your Executive Presence: Leading with Authority
Executive presence is a combination of communication skills, body language, and personal style that can help you stand out as a leader.
To demonstrate executive presence, you must be able to lead with authority. Here are some ways to do so:
- Communicate your ideas clearly
- Speak with a lower pitched voice at the end of your sentences
- Read the room and adjust your communication style accordingly
- Dress to match the level you aspire to reach
- Maintain good posture: sitting or standing up straight, shoulders back and down, chin slightly elevated
- Pay to your body language, facial expressions, and the topics you engage in, find humor in, or participate in
- Demonstrate active engagement and genuine interest in a conversation by maintaining eye contact and employing open gestures
- Be mindful of your tone of voice and the words you use
- Speak with confidence and use language that is appropriate for the situation
Engage in mirror practice! Initially, it might seem silly, but that’s perfectly fine. Do you behold a mighty and self-assured individual staring back at you? If not, then why?
Executive presence is an important quality for any leader to possess. It is a combination of confidence, poise, and charisma that allows you to command respect and influence others. Or “riz” as Gen Z is saying today.
To demonstrate executive presence, you must be aware of what it entails and then work to develop these characteristics. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can enhance your executive presence, become a more effective leader, and achieve the success you’ve worked so hard for.
Curious about working with a coach to enhance your executive presence? Set up a free discovery call with our founder Natalie Underdown, Ph.D. here