Great leaders inspire confidence. They seem to have an innate ability to command a room and lead others. They were “born to lead,” they say. That’s the myth anyway. The reality is they weren’t born with it, they learned the skill. You can, too.
What Is Executive Presence?
It may seem that those with executive presence achieve it naturally and easily. However, it’s something built and developed over a career. Some people never achieve it. But what exactly is it?
Some call it gravitas: a blend of confidence, poise even under pressure, and decisiveness. Others describe it as possessing strong communication skills: Speaking skills, assertiveness, and the ability to read the room. Psychologists Gavin Dagley and Gaderyn Gaskin wanted to define the qualities that make up executive presence. By interviewing a series of successful business leaders, they determined the 10 characteristics ascribed to those exuding executive presence.
10 Characteristics of Executive Presence
- Status and Reputation
- Physical Appearance
- Projected Confidence
- Communication Ability
- Engagement Skills
- Interpersonal Integrity
- Ability to Put Values in Action
- Intellect and Expertise
- Outcome Delivery Ability
- Coercive Power Use
Can You Develop Executive Presence?
The higher you rise in your career, the more this executive presence is needed. You need others to trust you and your decisions in order to follow you. Without it, you may never get the opportunity to lead.
To some, developing this presence will come easier. However, anyone can develop it. Here are seven action steps to improve your confidence and your executive presence.
How people perceive you will be the foundation of executive presence. Start with getting a core group of trusted advisors that can be brutally honest with you. Get them to help you understand the strengths and weaknesses others see in you so that you can work to highlight the strengths and eliminate the weaknesses.
Poor leaders confuse authority with leadership. They don’t care how others perceive them because they’re the boss. Great leaders know it’s not about the authority you have to tell others what to do, but rather the ability to motivate and inspire others to succeed.
2. Have A Vision
What do you stand for and what do you believe in? These two simple questions often require some deep thought. They can form the basis of your vision. Spend the time to develop your vision. You’ll also need to think about a way to articulate your vision in a confident manner.
Leaders inspire trust. People know what they stand for.
3. Improve Your Communication & Presentation Skills
Whether you like it or not, the way you present something is as important as the idea itself. If you can’t communicate your message, it doesn’t matter how good it is.
Even if it’s uncomfortable, put yourself in situations where you have to lead presentations, speak in front of groups, and polish your speaking skills. You’ll also need to carry this same skill into the written messages you deliver. Practice your communication and presentation skills often. Seek out feedback from people you trust.
4. Become A Better Listener
First-time managers often think the reason they’ve been given the job is that they have all the answers. They know what to do, so they have no problem telling others what to do. The mistake they make, however, is to not listen. Those with strong executive presence are great listeners. They engage team members, ask lots of questions, and take suggestions under consideration without feeling threatened. They know they don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. They do need to recognise smart ideas.
5. Be Calm In A Storm
How you deal with stressful situations sends an important message to your team. If you get flustered, appear overwhelmed, or get angry when under stress, this behaviour will undermine your leadership. Others take their cues from you. If the boss is freaking out, they’ll freak out as well.
Executive presence is about being composed and in control even when things are not going the way you want. When others know you’ve got a plan and you believe in what you’re doing, they’ll trust you and follow.
6. Invest In Relationships
You don’t need to be best friends with your team, but you don’t need to be aloof either. Strong relationships in the workplace positively impact morale, motivation, and productivity. When team members know you are invested in their success, they are more loyal.
This applies to your subordinates, peers, and bosses.
7. Manage Impressions
It may seem superficial to say that appearance matters, but it does. You have seconds to make a first impression when you meet someone. Experiments by Princeton psychologists showed that people can form impressions in as little as a tenth of a second of meeting someone.
Make sure your appearance is polished and professional. Nothing about your appearance should cause others to distract them from the impression you want to make.
Executive Coaching Can Help Develop Executive Presence
Just like anything else, practice will help you refine your executive presence. Executive coaching can help cut down the learning curve and amplify your skills. It provides an independent third person that has your best interests at heart. They will provide honest feedback to help you become more self-aware. They can provide coaching and mentoring to help you develop the skills you need. An executive coach has the experience to help you navigate employee relationships and organisational politics.
Coaching for executives is a personalised process. It can provide clarity and insight by helping you define the steps you need to take to improve your executive presence. An executive coach will also develop a plan to help you improve the skills you need for long-term success.