Guest Post by Shannon Eckmann
Executive presence can be a little nebulous.
While it’s easy to recognize traits like composure, charisma and confidence in well-known thought leaders like Steve Jobs, Simon Sinek or Brené Brown, it’s more difficult to apply these characteristics to the way we lead on a daily basis.
But executive presence is critical for leaders. It plays a key role in a leader’s ability to communicate and influence others — two traits that are among the most important factors in a leader’s success, according to the 2013 Gartner CIO Survey.
Executive presence lends credibility to your actions and decisions and improves your professional image.
Where Does Executive Presence Come From?
Executive presence will come more naturally to some than others, but it’s possible for anyone to develop it.
Confidence is a core underpinning to executive presence and can absolutely be developed throughout your life. In fact, increased confidence drives executive presence, which generally further improves confidence.
It’s common to think you need to have a certain personality or style to show executive presence. Sometimes people think they need to have a certain result on the DISC or MBTI profile to be seen as leaders. In reality, however, what is more critical, is being true to your nature. True confidence comes from becoming comfortable in your own skin, not from putting on a less-than-natural persona.
How Do You Know if You Have Executive Presence?
Look at the bulleted questions below and evaluate yourself honestly. While you’re unlikely to ever be completely accurate in your self-perspectives, it is critical to think about how you see yourself. Then find others you can ask for honest feedback. These should be people who see you both at work and outside of work, and who will tell you the truth kindly.
- Do others look to you for leadership when opportunities arise? Are people glad you are there and appreciative of your contributions?
- Are your leadership efforts aimed at helping other people develop, or are they more about showing off what you can do? Do your interactions focus on helping other people make good decisions or expecting them to follow orders?
- When times are tough, do people seek you out? Are you brave? Can you lead your team in challenging times, offering encouragement, and keeping them focused on the desired outcomes?
- Are you able to paint a picture of the future and show them a vision worth working towards?
- Are you intentional? Executive presence means starting the day off with the goal of helping people be their best selves.
- Are you glad to be there? True executive presence means being grateful for the opportunities you have. If you dread or resent tasks or meetings, that will show.
What Steps Can You Take to Develop your Executive Presence?
People are affected by what they see when they look at you. It isn’t about physical attractiveness but rather about the nonverbal messages your appearance is sending to others.
- Do you practice powerful posture? It’s important to stand up straight, smile, make eye contact and walk confidently. Practice this while you’re out running errands and at home in front of the mirror. Concentrate on how different you feel while striding confidently into a room smiling and greeting others as opposed to quietly slipping into the back of the room.
- Do you pay attention to appearance? This is caring about how we present ourselves outwardly. It’s not the most important but is something to think through and give attention. Do you allow a sloppy or unkempt look to hold you back? Don’t let your appearance get in the way of your message. Make sure your clothes are clean, in good repair and not wrinkled or disheveled. Your clothes don’t have to be fancy or even brand new, but they should be in good shape and fit you well. Your hair should always be well-maintained and neat. See your barber or stylist regularly and don’t be afraid to ask them for recommendations to maintain a clean look between visits.
- What expression do you generally wear? Consider how others experience our body language and facial expressions. We want others to see that we are relaxed, intentional and interested in them.) Is it welcoming and friendly or closed off and annoyed? Look at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning. That’s the expression the world sees when you aren’t paying attention. If you find it doesn’t convey the tone you want, practice the look you want and be intentional when greeting others. Hint: a smile is almost always the right answer.
- How do you walk into a room? Are you distracted or stressed? Are you reading emails on your phone? Or do you make an effort to connect and engage with individuals? People appreciate leaders who acknowledge them and show genuine interest. They know if you are “in the moment” or wishing you were somewhere else. Make it a priority to be present during every meeting. If you can’t be truly present, then consider delegating the meeting to someone who can.
These are fairly simple steps you can take right away, but if you’d like to go further, there are many ways to learn more. You could dig into great books and workshops on developing professional presence and confidence, or you could consider executive coaching to help you crack the code and develop a stronger, more confident presence.
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash
As an executive coach with Building Champions, Inc., Shannon Eckmann comes alongside leaders to help them see their role from multiple perspectives, re-frame their challenges, and develop action plans to make progress toward their short and long-term goals. She works with them to develop a vision through the lens of their core convictions and purpose, making small changes that will have a significant impact on their lives and business.
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Do You Have Executive Presence?
Great article with great insights! Even if you’re not an executive, thinking about the non-verbal messages you’re sending others – and being intentional about the message you actually WANT them to receive – is so valuable.