Why Executive Presence Works & How to Get it

Executive presence

Have you heard the term “executive presence” in business circles or online?

You may have noticed some people can take command of a room just by walking in. These people often don’t seem to be even trying to get attention. They’re not flashy or dramatic, yet people are drawn to them. Some of these individuals aren’t even aware of how they attract the attention they receive.

Typically, these individuals are seen and respected as leaders. On some level, we all aspire to lead, make a positive change, and inspire others to be their best.

In its most basic form leadership is the ability to have others willingly follow your lead regardless of position. This means a junior-level individual having the ability to lead a senior-level person in the same organization.

If you’ve ever wondered why one person with the same skills and qualifications gets promoted over another, it often comes down to executive presence.

Many strive to demonstrate strong executive presence, but what
exactly is it?

It’s a critical leadership characteristic that can set you apart. It’s an important skill across all parts of an organization. A Gartner survey showed that executive presence was second on a list of 20 leadership traits that make a significant impact in business.

Another study by the Center for Talent Innovation, a non-profit organization in New York, found that being perceived as leadership material is a critical part of actually getting promoted into a leadership position. The 268 senior executives surveyed said executive presence attributes for 26% of what it takes to get promoted.

The good news is executive presence is not an innate quality that you’re born with. It’s a set of learned behaviors that enable you to command attention without trying. ​​​​​​​

In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at what executive presence is, how it works, and how you can achieve it yourself.

What is Executive Presence?

Know your objective—what you want the audience to do at the end of
your persuasive speech
A good way to start understanding executive presence is by thinking about the leaders you admire. What traits and abilities do they possess that you look up to?

  • Inspire and empower others
  • Tell great stories
  • Articulate a clear vision everyone seems to understand
  • Speak in a way that naturally draws people in
  • Have laser-like focus
  • Stay calm in high-stress situations
  • Seem to have an unshakeable confidence

In its purest form, executive presence is the ability to influence others
and drive results

In simple terms, executive presence is your ability to inspire confidence from the people around you. It’s your senior leaders, colleagues, and subordinates seeing you as capable, reliable, and someone to be listened to and trusted when the stakes are high and vision is needed.

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Why You Need Executive Presence

How important is executive presence

Executive presence gives you access to opportunities. It’s often said that in leadership, “Every important decision about you will be made when you’re not in the room.”

Whether the decision is about a promotion, role, or an assignment to a big project, chances are you will not be present when that decision is made. The opportunities you get or miss out on depend largely on the confidence you’ve inspired in decision-makers. The bigger the opportunity, the more important executive presence becomes.

Developing your executive presence helps you gain a greater understanding of how to hone and strengthen your interpersonal skills in a way to help navigate workplace politics.

Executive Presence: Style + Substance + Character

To develop executive presence you must make consistently good impressions. The consistent part relates to consistency in communication and authenticity. When we think of leaders, we think of someone with the ability to communicate beyond mere words. For example, if you are speaking while moving back and forth, looking down, and speaking in monotone you’re not inspiring confidence no matter how well you know what you’re talking about.

Strong executive presence is demonstrated through body language, eye contact, emotional intelligence, active listening, and voice. Most people can develop executive presence skills by using an executive coach and quickly become better leaders.

How to Develop Executive Presence

Like with most skills in life some people catch on faster than others, and the same goes for executive presence. However, don’t let that discourage you. Everyone can improve their executive presence with focus, practice, and attitude.

Here are seven mindset shifts to start developing strong executive presence:

1. Develop a Vision

One of the best ways to inspire confidence is through a compelling vision, or what you’re working to accomplish. Make it appropriate in scale for your position, and make sure you can communicate your vision in any context whether it be in a 30-second elevator ride or at a dinner with important stakeholders. A clear, well-articulated vision is how you make your mark and set yourself apart.

2. Understand How Others View You

Strong executive presence relies on having the ability to understand others’ perceptions. It becomes more critical as you work your way into senior positions and increasingly rely on others for your effectiveness. Start by consulting with mentors, and getting feedback from supervisors, peers, and subordinates.

3. Hone Your Communication Skills

Great leaders are great communicators. Top C-suite leadership skills always come back to communication. Actively seek feedback on your communication, and invest time in training. Your personal journey in developing these leadership qualities should include mastery across every medium including in-person, written, or any other form of communication.

A powerful combination of spoken language and body language forges
deep audience connection

4. Be the Best Listener in the Room

Individuals with strong leadership presence listen in such a way that people genuinely feel heard. Your audience feeling heard is essential. Great listeners engage with full attention, ask great questions, and use listening as a skill to get more information. Your employees’ success will often point to your ability to listen.

5. Cultivate A Network

People with the best executive presence understand that organizational politics are neither good nor bad, they just are a fact of business. Companies are composed of complex relationships and with that naturally comes diverse opinions and competing agendas. Organizational politics are inevitable when people work together. People with a strong executive presence cultivate a network of organizational relationships so they can better influence conflict in a productive direction when it arises.

6. Learn to Operate Effectively Under Stress

Great leaders have quiet confidence when the stakes are high. If you appear rushed, flustered, or overwhelmed that sends a negative signal to the people around you. Many people in organizations make the mistake of believing that looking frantically busy signals value. In reality, it just indicates that the person is frantically busy and probably can’t be trusted with more responsibility. An overwhelmed leader does not project a confident leader. When the pressure rises, the better leader earns respect and credibility by keeping cool.

7. Look the Part

Research shows that visual appearance makes the first impression, and first impressions, whether conscious or subconscious, hold a lot of weight. Having good executive presence depends on making sure your first impression inspires confidence. Make sure your appearance is appropriate for the setting and company culture and consistent with others at the level you aspire to. Make sure there’s nothing about your appearance that will distract from the impression you wish to leave.

How to tell your story so the audience feels it’s their story.

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Behaviors that Define Strong Executive Presence

What are the key components of executive presence

No matter the position or organization, all aspiring leaders can intentionally practice behavior that builds these essential character traits and abilities.

Emotional Intelligence

The hallmarks of high emotional intelligence include the ability to identify, understand, and assess the emotions of yourself and others. Leaders with high emotional intelligence demonstrate compassion, self-awareness, and authenticity.

Public Speaking

Being comfortable with talking in front of groups and even large audiences is critical to developing a strong executive presence. Body language, verbal articulation, and delivery are important.

Just watch any TED Talk to get a sense of how much confidence presenters must show on stage to capture audience attention

Leaders with executive presence have masterful presentation skills

Communicate to Connect

To speak is only one part of communication. Decision-makers will be looking to see if you can communicate on multiple levels.

Individuals with a strong executive presence can control their emotions and sense emotions so they can tailor their response in the best way possible. Leaders don’t react, they act. They stay calm and cool under pressure and don’t get easily rattled.

The more you understand others, the better you can understand how they see you. Stay open to and encourage feedback.

Quiet Confidence

When it comes to capturing your audience, it’s not just about charisma or extroversion. While important, charisma can refer to a somewhat superficial characteristic.

Getting the attention of an audience or people in the room is not just about charm and extroversion.
True confidence comes with humility. Think Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi to understand that you don’t need to be loud to lead.

But be careful not to take your humbleness too far. The balance of humility and confidence is a must.

Leaders with great presence are uniquely human communicators with deep emotional intelligence

Integrity

To gain trust you must follow through. Stand by your convictions and stay true to your values. A strong executive presence means staying consistent and committed to doing the right thing no matter the circumstances.

Consistency is hard for everyone. When people around you see that you’re pulling it off they get inspired.

People are drawn to those with executive presence because they are genuine. When one is straightforward, comfortable in their skin, and honest about their flaws, they become more relatable and trustworthy. There is something endearing about the willingness to make mistakes and admit to fears and uncertainties.

The attraction to people with executive presence is so strong because of the authenticity factor. A person who is straightforward, comfortable in their skin, and honest about their flaws, they are seen as someone to trust and aspire to. The willingness to make mistakes, admit to them, and learn without self-attacking and falling apart is key to executive presence.

Develop a Signature Style

Leaders who have executive presence have a style that is entirely their own. They do not need to imitate or mimic other great leaders. It could be their mannerisms, the passionate way they talk about their advocacy, or how they use funny stories to communicate important messages.

Leaders with executive presence have a unique style. They don’t imitate or mimic other leaders. It can be things like mannerisms, the passion they speak with, or how they use funny stories or analogies to drive hom important messages.

Develop heightened advocacy with your audience to show your
signature style

Learn to Be a Leader

Most great leaders are not born that way. Executive presence is a skill anyone with the interest and want can build and achieve. First you must commit to the idea that you want to change. That’s half the battle.

Step two is exploring executive presence training options. You might be able to piece it together on your own, but investing in executive presence training and hiring an executive leadership coach is the fast way to developing a strong executive presence.

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Our Impact

Why You Need Executive Presence Coaching

In any business or organization, individuals with executive presence are the ones who get promoted first. Every organization wants the best talent and individuals with no ceiling on potential. They’re looking for individuals who can rise to the occasion, help lead in times of crisis, minimize disruptions, and be trusted when the stakes are high.
The power to influence is an absolute necessity and with practice it’s
within your reach

Most great leaders are not born that way. Executive presence is a skill anyone with the interest and want can build and achieve. First you must commit to the idea that you want to change. That’s half the battle.

Step two is exploring executive presence training options. You might be able to piece it together on your own, but investing in executive presence training and hiring an executive leadership coach is the fast way to developing a strong executive presence.

 

Executive Presence Training

Suasive, Inc. is a Silicon Valley-based communication consulting company that offers executive presence training for organizations and individuals. To date, we’ve coached over 600 CEOs and helped individuals in some of the country’s biggest companies including Netflix, eBay, Sonos, Lyft, and Freshworks.

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