Executive Presence
Unlock the Doors to Executive Presence
Jan 20, 2022 5 min read

Executive Presence is one of the most valued leadership traits because 'how we show' up is equally or more important than what we do.

When working with my clients, many of them express a desire to enhance their executive presence.

It comes as no surprise because leaders with a positive presence have a powerful influence on others. Executives tend to achieve their organisational goals successfully and are likely to get promoted faster.

The good news is that Executive Presence can be developed with the right focus, consistent attention and determination.

 

What is Presence?

There are many explanations for presence, I would go with presence as your state of ‘Being’, your bearing and demeanour.

Some words that describe positive presence are - charisma, poise, gravitas, and self-assurance.  

Presence rests on your ability to be fully self-aware and manage yourself effectively.

Presence is also your ability to have an enhanced awareness of your external world and your people.

With expanded awareness and self-management, you- 

  • Bring the best of yourself to the world
  • Bring the best out in others

 

The Doors

Your whole self is largely made up of your mindset and emotions which impact your communication and behaviour.

Think of these as four doors that each open to one aspect of your executive presence.

  • Mental Presence
  • Emotional Presence
  • Communication Presence
  • Physical Presence

You may be strong in some of these key aspects and some may need further development to elevate your executive presence.

To reflect which aspect needs your higher attention let’s look at what each of them entails.

 

Mental Presence

The nature of your thoughts determines how you speak and behave. Positive thoughts about yourself and others lead to an energised and engaging presence.

Your mindset matters.

Clarity of thinking is another important ingredient in executive presence. Clarity of thought helps you to be assertive, decisive and confident.

You can try - 

  • Becoming aware of the quality of your thinking. 
  • Positive self-talk leads to higher self-esteem and confidence. Spend time in positive affirmations as a daily practice.
  • As a key step to developing clarity, take time to become familiar with the core values that drive you. Values help you build your unique brand and what it stands for.
  • When you stay aligned with them, you find yourself being assertive and authentic.

 

Emotional Presence

Your emotional presence is dictated by the kind of emotions you regularly experience throughout the day.

People who experience regular positive emotions tend to show up calmer and happier.

This is not to say that we need to be joyful at all times. While it is natural to feel disturbing emotions, an emotion felt very often throughout the day can add to your overall emotional energy.

Energies are transferred and picked up easily by others, which impacts your overall presence.

Think about how you most often feel through the day. Self-management techniques in your daily routine help in managing emotions that can create imbalance.

You can try -

  • Regular deep breathing
  • Short bursts of meditation
  • Intermittent breaks to refresh and reset

 

Communication Presence

Our words have immense power.

How we communicate can make or break our presence.

In leadership, there are times when as a leader you have to provide challenging messages to your team. However, it helps to reflect on how these messages are being conveyed to others.

It is important to understand that one does not necessarily need to be a great communicator to have a good presence.

Powerful presence also comes from being a good listener and demonstrating empathy.

You can try-

  • Be conscious of your messages and language. Are they more on the positive or negative side?
  • How is the tone of your voice – is it empathetic, collaborative, or directing.

 

Physical Presence

Your body language influences people.

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, researching Presence extensively explains that power and movement are intimately connected.

As per Amy body movements can be either powerful or powerless.

Expansive movements are powerful e.g standing straight and opening your chest, weight on both feet, moving eye contact in the room etc.

Contracted postures are powerless e.g. stooping shoulders, folding arms across the chest when in conversation with others, hunching etc.

Awareness of your body language and its impact is key to gaining a confident physical presence in a room.

You can try-

  • Start becoming aware of your body language
  • In which situations do you see your body language being powerless or powerful?
  • Start introducing expansive body language to shift your energy in situations where you feel your power slipping.

 

Conclusion 

You can start developing your executive presence right now.

Reflect on which of the four categories you want to focus on and begin taking small steps to work on it.

As an executive coach, I understand it can be challenging to enhance your self-awareness, especially on your own but I also believe you have the potential to power up your presence.

I share some questions besides the suggestions I provided, to help you kickstart the journey and wish you great success.

I would love to hear from you if any of them did work, so feel free to reach out to me.

 

Reflection Questions

    1. Observe someone you feel has a strong executive presence. What do you notice about the person?
    2. What do you notice about their mental, emotional, communication and physical Presence?
    3. What ideas do you want to incorporate?

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