Getting your executive presence right

Executive presence is a relatively untouched topic. Interestingly, it is an extremely crucial one as one rises up the corporate ladder. However, conversations around it are limited to appreciating a leader who is effective and inspiring. Executive presence is considered mystical and there are quite a lot of corporate leaders who fail to get it right. Sadly, there are no books to read up and get some quick fixes for executive presence. It’s a skill- that can be cultivated and built upon. And the sooner you decide to invest his/her time and effort in building executive presence, the better it is.

Executive presence- what is it all about

Executive presence is something that would have crossed your minds, when you would have worked with or listened to a successful leader. It is essential if one wants to be an effective and inspiring leader. If we try to define it- executive presence can be seen as a leader’s ability to instill confidence in his/her team members that he is an effective leader that they should follow.

This is not all. Executive presence is also about inspiring confidence amongst peers that he/she is a capable and impactful leader. Lastly, executive presence is also about your ability to inspire confidence amongst senior leadership that you have the right talent and potential to succeed.

To put it simply, executive presence is a combination of personal traits as well as external behaviour to help create an image around leadership competence as well as trustworthiness.

Some tips to enhance executive presence

Executive presence can be the biggest differentiator for an aspiring executive. It can help the executive get the much-needed attention and appreciation from the seniors. It can also get him/her get that critical role or assignment in the organization. Also, it can help build a good rapport with peers and team members, thus making it easier for the executive to get the work done.

Executive presence can be the most essential ingredient when it comes to creating a perception of one’s ability to lead under pressure. You can get your executive presence right with consistent effort. While there are some people who are born-gifted when it comes to executive presence, there are others who need to work on building or improving their executive presence. It requires a lot of self-awareness, and investment in improving oneself. For example, one can look at highly respected leaders and try to follow the way they conduct themselves in front of senior leaders, peers as well as team members.

Here are some tips to enhance your executive presence:

Be an excellent listener

One of the most important elements of executive presence is the ability to listen patiently. It is a known fact that people with great executive presence are exceptional listeners. They listen intently, ask questions and engage others. Their ability to listen well demonstrates their self-confidence, which an important trait for good executive presence.

If you want to be seen as a good leader, you should have the patience to listen to the other person, whether it is your team member, your senior or your colleague.

Build your communication skills

A good leader is able to communicate well, irrespective of whether it is on an email, a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. He/she is able to connect well with people. Hence, in order to have a good executive presence it is recommended that you invest time in improving your communication skills across scenarios and mediums. It is to be noted that good communication skills does not imply being fluent in a specific language. Instead, good communication skill is all about being able to build an engaging conversation with the other person in a language comfortable to both.

Have a vision and a compelling story around it

Executive presence is about having a vision and a clear view what one aspires to achieve. A vision gives you an edge over others and helps win the confidence of the key stakeholders. If you want to showcase good executive presence, you need to have a vision around what you would like to accomplish. Also, you should have a compelling storyline around the vision and how it connects to your overall mantra in life. You should be able to communicate your vision well, in any circumstance and without any prep time. Whether it is a 2 minute elevator ride, a short catch up over drinks with clients or partners, or an offsite of the organization, you should be able to talk about your vision in a well-articulated manner.

Keeping a cool head in high-stress situations

There are 2 way individuals react to high-stress situations. The first lot is cool and composed even in the biggest of crises. The second lot is the one who looks flustered or overwhelmed when trying to deal with a crisis.

It is the first set that is on the right track when it comes to building good executive presence. Good leaders are the ones who can keep a cool head even in the most critical situations and can focus on finding a solution to the problem at-hand. They are in control and always look well-prepared. They also tend to simplify big challenges and convert crisis into opportunity.

Appearance is important

The appearance of an individual is the key in today’s times. It is the first impression that is known to have a powerful impact on the way we perceive people. It is the appearance that sets the tone for the conversation ahead. Hence, appearance is a key element of executive presence. You should ensure that your appearance should position you as someone who is confident, in control and with a clear vision.

The outfits you wear also have an impact on your executive presence. Hence, your appearance should be appropriate for the setting and the company culture. From corporate attires, to well-groomed looks, it is important to focus on the overall appearance.

To sum it up..

There are no perfect leaders, but only leaders who are able to connect well with their seniors, team members as well as peers. To be able to do so and communicate one’s strengths, it is imperative to focus on building an impactful executive presence from very early years of your career. Executive presence is something that is generally on the back burner till one takes up a critical senior role in an organisation. However, with the rise of globalisation, a dispersed workforce and the rise of videos and social media, it is advisable that every professional should focus on getting his executive presence right.


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Akanksha Jain
Akanksha is a seasoned brand communications professional with over 15 years of experience in working across global/digital public relations, corporate and brand communications, crisis communications, brand and market communications domains.

In the past, Akanksha has successfully planned and executed public relations/brands campaigns across India and over 30 other countries. She is a start-up specialist and has extensive experience of working with emerging brands. She has been associated with brands like Pine Labs, MobiKwik, VLCC and Power2SME and spearheaded their PR/brand/communication campaigns.

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