Executive Presence

Companies recognize that developing a leader’s executive presence is becoming increasingly important to cultivate the most influential leaders.

A recent Gartner Survey found that Chief Information Officers ranked executive presence as the second most important leadership characteristic. In comparison, technical skills ranked 12th.

C-suite executives and business leaders often say that executive presence is key to taking a seat at their level. Executive presence is how you are perceived and how you feel. Understanding the traits, mannerisms, style and characteristics of executive presence will position all levels of leaders for the top management positions.

What is Executive Presence?

The reality is that others perceive you in a certain way, even before you say anything. People pay attention to everything. Appearance (dress, grooming, posture, facial expression, etc.) is often the first and most outwardly noticeable area of presence.

Like many soft skills, executive presence is difficult to pin down, teach and even measure. However, it ultimately comes down to project how one projects themselves with enough self-confidence. They need to take control of difficult and unpredictable situations, make the tough decisions, have the tough conversations and hold their own with other talented and strong members of their team at all levels.

Even in today’s casual business environment, leaders must show a level of professionalism that complements the situation. Major mistakes in appearance can be detrimental. If a senior executive dresses too casual, people may think he or she is not professional enough to do the job. However, executive presence is more than just wearing the right outfit.

What Does It Mean to Have Executive Presence?

Character qualities and how a leader projects their inner self are incredibly important to developing executive presence. Projecting confidence, commanding attention, exuding a level of comfort and contagious enthusiasm are critical.

Additionally, authenticity and humility with an audience builds trust. If people can trust you, you are armed with the capital to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension.

Leaders should be free to be creative and imaginative, but it’s equally important to gauge the receptivity of the audience. This will allow you to better determine what style will be best received.

Executive presence means having the resilience and confidence to command the room. Executive presence can be shown through a firm handshake, eye contact, body language, or the perfect outfit. Each and every leader has the confidence and resilience inside themselves to put their best self forward.

Resilience and Executive Presence

In today’s business environment, leaders are asked to perform well under any circumstances. The reality is that people these days are juggling priorities, balancing work, family, and hobbies. The pace might be relentless and overwhelming.
Moreover, leaders are also dealing with complex work issues including toxic relationships, limited resources etc. All of these, in one way or another, will affect how we show up and how we are perceived.

In challenging situations, leaders must learn to control their emotions. Learning to control emotions is a key part of learning to be resilient. To build resilience, we must have an adapting capacity. Sometimes that means changing our emotions and our behavior in order to be open to new solutions.

Resilience is innate within us. Leaders must tune into the resilience that is already inside them in order to project that confidence in the room.

Leaders must also learn to recognize the emotions in others and be able to manage the response to those emotions. Leaders exhibiting strong executive presence can also speak clearly and concisely — they know their material. The language used by leaders with executive presence is clear and concise, lacking filler language that can detract from presence.

Leaders that project comfort, confidence, and enthusiasm exhibit the type of traits that can’t be faked. When leaders are comfortable, confident and enthusiastic, vocal pitch varies with highs and lows, allowing them to sound expressive and relaxed. As Maya Angelou has said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In essence, executive presence is a leader’s brand. Executive presence is about how other people think about you even when you are not around. Leaders develop their brand through focused, authentic executive presence.

Developing Executive Presence

The good news is that executive presence is not something leaders are born with. It is something that can be learned with the help of an executive coach. Trusted advisers can notice traits in leaders that can be developed and sharpened.

Executive presence is a multi-pronged, complex phenomenon. Coaching is the most effective way for helping leaders develop their executive presence. In fact, a recent survey byCoachSource found that the second most often requested coaching support is around executive presence.

Small changes can make a big difference quickly. However, it can take longer to build the whole executive presence “package,” which includes building resilience. Being a successful leader is an aspiration for most people. One key to that success is to build executive presence through resilience.

Running a company, department, or team is hard work, especially at a senior level. Some leaders are successful right away, others take a bit longer to get traction and others never will.

So why can some leaders do it right away and others can’t? How do some adapt right away to their new culture, position, or environment and thrive, while others don’t These successful leaders have found the resilience within themselves and learned to show it outwardly through their executive presence.

Coaching provides the leader awareness of perceptions, suggestions, and feedback on their content delivery. It can offer support for how to handle high pressure, large audience presentations that will make or break some leaders.

Leaders with great presence are the leaders in which employees want to talk with and take guidance from. Making an impression is not a choice; it’s an inevitability. Leaders taking the time to up their game in executive presence will become more influential and effective in their work.