When a leader with executive presence comes into a room, everybody stops what they are doing and turn their attention to him or her, as if they are drawn against their will. But there are also leaders that possess great leadership skills yet don’t have the executive presence.
Executive presence is neither a magical quality nor a natural trait! Instead, executive presence is a skill that, like any other skill, can be developed with practice.
Know What It Is
Let’s first define executive presence the best we can. Basically, executive presence is your ability to be an inspiration to others and to inspire confidence in them. When you do so with your team members and even with your bosses, they will want to follow your lead because they have greater confidence and trust in your abilities as a great leader.
Having an executive presence has several benefits for your career in general and yourself in particular. Keep in mind that many crucial decisions will be made without your presence but when you have executive presence, you have a significant influence on the people who make these decisions. You will then have access to career opportunities that others don’t have, partly because you have established your integrity, competence, and credibility with the decision-makers.
Know Whether You Have It or Not
Executive presence is an intangible aspect of leadership – you can’t point your finger at it but it is there! But it can be determined based on your decisions, words, and actions.
On your part, you will know that you have a strong executive presence when you:
- Act based on your belief of what’s right and what’s wrong even in the face of pressure and controversy
- Step out of your comfort zone and take risks into the unknown
- Admit your mistakes in front of others and treat them as lessons that will contribute to your personal growth
- Believe that outside validation isn’t necessary because of your self-confidence and self-acceptance
- Give credit where credit is due, especially in team efforts where you acknowledge that the achievement belongs to everybody
- Accept command responsibility, particularly when the team fails
- Accept compliments with a gracious attitude (i.e., not letting them into your head)
- Take action even when you have self-doubts since you know that conditions will never be perfect
- Let go of something that has passed its time
Executive presence starts in your mind!
On the other hand, you may have a weak executive presence when you:
- Change your words, actions, and behaviors based on the opinions of others
- Avoid risks, stay within your comfort zone, and hold back when you feel judged or when it isn’t fair or the right time
- Deny your mistakes, even cover them up to save your skin, and blame others, perhaps even solve the issue before it leaks out
- Seek, even demand, recognition and reward as validation for a job well done
- Take credit for the work done by others
- Brag about what you have while downplaying what others have in comparison
- Dismiss the attention, such as when others compliment you, for any reason or, on the flip side, fish for compliments
If you have a weak or low executive presence, you don’t have to feel discouraged because you can develop it. Just remember that it isn’t something that can be cultivated overnight but it’s a skill worth cultivating.
- Maintain a laser-like focus on your team’s shared goals as well as on your personal goals. You have to cultivate an attitude of attention, too, since people like the feeling of being listened to, especially by their leaders.
- Use words and body language to good effect. You should be more careful in your choice of words, particularly when you want to inspire others and to inspire confidence in themselves. You may also want to consider how you carry yourself in terms of the way you dress, stand and walk – carry yourself like a leader and people will believe that you are, indeed, one.
- Maintain your cool and calm presence. Your team members and bosses will appreciate it when you’re the calming presence, the cool head, amidst the storm.
Developing an executive presence is an achievable goal and it’s something that you should aspire for.