• Devika Das

What is Executive Presence? Explanation and more...

In this article, I will answer the two most important questions about executive presence.


What is executive presence?

&

What are some of the attributes of presence?



What is executive presence? Most of my clients think they know what presence as a leader is. However, all of them come with their own version of what their understanding of executive presence is.


Understandably, executive presence is ill-defined and elusive in popular leadership literature. There is something esoteric about the concept. Of course, then there are these myths:

  • That you are born with it

  • Seen as a North-American concept

  • Only tall white men have executive presence.

  • It is about appearance and wearing the correct pantsuit.

  • Only revolves around verbal communication skills

  • Only showcases when speaking in a seminar with a large audience and is not required as a one on one skill

When clients come to me with the aim to develop their executive presence, I ask them the same questions:


“What is executive presence? What does it mean to you?”

When you are told to go get some executive presence by your boss, often people fail to ask him/her:


“What is executive presence? What is does it mean to the organization? How does he/she define it?”

Unfortunately, not many are given specific feedback on what presence means to them and though they are suggested to improve their presence, the concept seems unapproachable and elitist.

Simply put, Executive presence is the ability to use your personality, reputation and magnetism to inspire confidence in your work and potential to influence direct-indirect stakeholders.

Executive presence is a leadership skill and being a strong leader is linked to emanating executive presence.


Unless you work alone on an abandoned island with no contact with the outside world, you must possess and develop some level of presence to be successful. Presence is an adaptable skill. Different fields of work require specific styles and levels of presence. The level of presence required if you are an accountant may be different than if you were working in global strategy. Yet, for arrays of jobs, you need to observe some level of presence.


Beyond this, there are different variables that impact presence:


  • Personality

  • Team culture

  • Organization culture

  • National culture

  • Political dynamics

  • Industry environment

  • Gender

  • Ethnicity and Race


So let’s elaborate on the answer to the original question – What is Executive Presence?


Executive presence is one’s ability to inspire confidence. Your professional network needs to have confidence in your ability.


You work does not talk. NOOOOOOO! You do...

What it is not!!! Most coaches when they come to be believe that your work will speak for yourself. Your work does not speak for itself. You have to do the speaking too – verbally and non-verbally.


Having executive presence means you exude that you are reliable, efficient and inspiring.


That you are capable of professional accomplishment and you have people skills. You use your persona, a mask that you show to the world to exude your presence.

Why is Executive presence important?


Now that you know what is executive presence, let’s sketch out how you can benefit from executive presence.

The opportunities you gain access to depend on the confidence you have inspired in the decision-makers.

“the more significant the opportunity, the more important executive presence becomes”

If you are a leader and want to improve your executive presence, you need to learn how to engage and influence within your teams and workplace. Using these attributes will give you an edge in the workplace and influence your network. You can have the most impressive resume, references, and educational background, but without executive presence, you can only advance so far.


What do you need to have great executive presence?


Now you know what is executive presence, let’s understand the various attributes to this presence. Executive presence is the way:

Executive Mindset: Being able to think on various levels and through time to achieve personal, team and organizational goals.

Power Dynamics: Hierarchies are alive and life doesn’t promise to be fair. A person with a great presence will know how to maneuver political corridors in organizations.


Reading the environment: The ability to un-code hidden agendas and identify the energy, an individual, a team or an organization radiates. This goes beyond the organization, to industry, geopolitics etc.


Presentation of yourself: Appropriate visual representation gives the impression that you spend time to conduct yourself right and if one can treat themselves right, they can treat others right. Also, it reveals the standard that you set for yourself and the kind of behavior you expect from others towards yourself

Your attitude: Your attitude towards the world of work impacts a great deal in how you experience your work.


Confidence: Believing in your ideas and vision, having the courage to take them forward.


Body language: Having a strong body language that takes up space is important. One’s non-verbal communication plays an important role in how your network perceives you. Having strong body language emits a positive perception of your ability.


Verbal language: Communicating appropriately to remain professional and understandable at the same time is crucial. One should aim to be comprehensive while communicating their goals and agendas.


International Etiquette: How one carries themselves, speaks a lot about a person. Having good etiquette leads to one showing and receiving respect.


Your entire ontology, or way of being


In a complex, fast-paced world, it is vital to be noticed, heard and trusted. Executive Presence is therefore an essential competency for both individual contributors and leaders with large following.


What do people see in those who have executive presence?

Those with presence can walk a thin line of stand apart and be integrated. There are some aspects of them that are striking. Here are some of the traits that are mesmerizing to that audience.



They Have Strategic Perspective: Those with executive presence are characterized to move up the rung. The higher they move up the corporate ladder, they begin to have a defined strategic purpose and ideas. For example, a person on a hill has a better view as he climbs up higher. Similarly, an executive with presence attains a clearer vision as they move up the ladder.

In order to remain on top, communicating this purpose and vision to their colleagues and teams is crucial. It can also be noted that those with presence know how to manage their senior stakeholders better.


They Know Where They Stand: An executive with strong presence understands the political landscape of their organization. They identify articulated and unarticulated agendas and have the ability to manage expectations. They know the limits to engagement and are aware of their power and own position in the power dynamics.


They Are Comprehensible: An executive with presence understands that it isn’t communication that is key, it is comprehension that is key. Having a strong presence leads to an increase in followership. A leader needs to be comprehensible for his colleagues so that they understand their strategic vision and contribute by ideating and executing. Clear communication skill is the value of a servant leader.


They Are Deep Listeners: One of the most important communication skills is your ability to listen. People with great executive presence are exceptional listeners. They engage with their full attention. They ask great questions, and they use listening as a way to engage others and explore important ideas. And there’s another benefit: The ability to listen effectively demonstrates self-confidence, another critical part of executive presence.

They Are Centered: These leaders are not overwhelmed easily and don’t get emotionally riled up. Many people make the mistake of believing that looking frantically busy indicates their value to the organization. It doesn’t -- it just indicates that they’re frantically busy, and perhaps that they can’t be trusted with any more responsibility. No one wants to see a leader who’s overwhelmed. People with good executive presence present themselves as calm, even-keeled, composed, well-prepared and in control at all times. That inspires the confidence that they are ready to take on even more.

Look The Part: Visual appearance makes a first impression and it is essential for that to overlap with one’s verbal and non-verbal communication. You want to note that your first impression inspires confidence. Pay attention to your clothing choices, tailoring and grooming, and make sure there’s nothing about your appearance that will distract from the impression you want to leave. Although appearance does not carry as much weight in the executive presence equation as action and communication, it is a critical first filter in forming a perception.


Now that you know that executive presence is the ability to inspire confidence, these parameters will enable one to be successful in doing so.


Executive presence will set you on the path towards career progress, great reputation and financial standing.

We started with answering your queries by defining and explaining what executive presence is and moved on to analyzing the attributes and parameters of executive presence. This article sketched out the importance of executive presence in the workplace and its significance in achieving progress in one’s career.


If you aim to develop this presence to influence impact, invest in yourself and your career by contacting us for coaching on this subject to take you on the path of further success.

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