When I say executive presence, I’ll bet you have something in mind – or someone in mind – but you might be hard-pressed to fully define executive presence.
You’re not alone; a lot of folks I talk to feel they know what executive presence is but can’t really describe it.
Of course, if you can’t describe something, it’s more difficult to achieve it. So, let’s define what it is AND help you develop your executive presence.
Some say that, essentially, having an executive presence is being able to inspire confidence in your leadership with members of your team, among your peers, and with anyone to whom you report.
However, rather than having an innate ability or trait, an executive presence is a combination of qualities or characteristics – plus skills that can be developed.
Sure, some people will just naturally have more “presence” and some folks need to work at it a bit more – but all of us benefit from naming specific areas we want to develop (particularly as leadership roles become more and more senior and demands are greater).
Why should you care about or want to develop your executive presence?
Having an executive presence inspires confidence and persuades others around you that your leadership matters. If someone believes in your ability to lead, it gives you opportunity – whether that person is choosing to be led by you, to work with you, or to hire you or your company.
Here are the key qualities to cultivate that will develop your executive presence. Notice we’ve defined them all starting with a “C” – you can think of these qualities as “the C-suite that will get you into the C-Suite”:
- Connected – successful leaders cultivate a network of relationships and include diverse opinions in discussions, using emotional intelligence skills to navigate organizational politics and the myriad complexities of team dynamics at all levels. Leaders need to be able to delegate effectively and rely on their team members, which means building trust.
- Charismatic – being a strong leader means having the ability to understand yourself and others well enough to inspire and motivate. It’s being able to talk with anyone and put them at ease; while you are able to engage everyone in the discussion, it’s clear that you are confident in your leadership role. Feeling comfortable talking to anyone is something that a lot of our clients find challenging. One tool that can help is our Everything DiSC workshops that give leaders tools to adapt to people around them and more easily build relationships.
- Confident and Compassionate – when you are self-aware – knowing your own strengths and challenges and how to work with a variety of personalities – a few things happen. One of them is that your emotional intelligence rises – and high emotional intelligence allows a leader to walk that fine, but essential, line between assertive and aggressive. By working with intention and having a purposeful vision, leaders demonstrate self-confidence, build trust, and align goals with core values.
- Credible and Consistent – understanding builds trust, and it takes effort – but a highly functioning team is well worth the investment. Our Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team workshop helps leaders and their teams understand themselves and how to work well together (including building trust and how to build the good type of conflict in the workplace!).
- Clear and Concise – effective communication skills are, of course, essential and that includes articulating and rearticulating a clear, consistent vision in ways that others can see it and get behind it. That also means having exceptional listening skills so you can understand how others are receiving your message – which brings to mind my favourite quote from motivational writer Stephen R. Covey: “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Recognizing your listening style is the first step to improving communication with your team.
- Calm and Composed – being able to function effectively under stress – without losing all the above characteristics by panicking, dramatizing, or appearing overwhelmed – is essential to developing your executive presence. Effective leaders appear capable, in control, and able to handle even difficult or unexpected situations with grace and poise even if that sometimes means you “have to fake it til you make it.” Use the EQi and EQ360 tools to determine where and how you can make changes to improve how you lead your team through inevitable challenges.
- Coach Approach – taking a coach approach to leadership can be transformative, encouraging greater communication, improving work relationships, and increasing both productivity and job satisfaction. Learning how to build a coaching culture is an important tool to develop your executive presence. Check out our new Coach Approach to Leadership program and recently released Coach Approach to Leadership Journal.
Which qualities would you like to improve to develop your executive presence? What steps can you take to enhance your growth in this area? What gaps are there between how you see yourself and how others might see you?