You may have heard the term “executive presence” before, but what exactly does it mean?
Few people can take command of a room when they walk in. But the people who are best at this don’t bring attention to themselves in a flashy or dramatic way. The best leaders probably don’t even recognize how powerful their ability to command attention is.
Here are some skills and behaviors that anyone can develop to establish a stronger executive presence and become an excellent leader.
What is executive presence?
Think about a few leaders you genuinely admire. They probably possess at least a few of the following traits and abilities:
- The ability to inspire and empower others
- They speak in such a way that naturally draws people in
- The ability to focus
- The ability to articulate a clear vision
- They tell great stories
- They work calmly in high-stress situations
- They teach others how to think and problem-solve
So, is executive presence something that comes naturally? For some people, it might. But most people spend years developing their own set of leadership strengths and get better over time.
6 Behaviors that Define Strong Executive Presence
No matter what position or organization they are in, all aspiring leaders can intentionally practice behavior that builds these essential character traits and abilities.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and assess not just your emotions but others. Leaders who have emotional intelligence are compassionate, self-aware, authentic, and intuitive.
People who have a high emotional intelligence also tend to be effective and empathic communicators.
Blending humility and compassion with humor and a positive presence is essential in commanding an audience. Body language and verbal articulation, as well as delivery, are critical here.
Watch almost any popular TED Talk, and you’ll likely get a sense of this type of confidence in their presentation.
Communicate to Understand and Connect
Talking is only one part of the communication process, and decision-makers above you will be more likely to offer a promotion if they see that you can communicate on all levels.
Those with a strong executive presence can control their emotions and sense emotions in others, helping them manage their response. Rather than react, they act. They remain calm and graceful under pressure and are not easily rattled.
When you understand others deeply, you can understand how they see you as well. Be open to feedback, have meaningful communication, and practice active listening.
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.
True confidence comes with undertones of humility. You only need to think of great leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi to understand that you don’t have to be “loud” to lead.
On the other hand, sometimes being too humble can get in the way of you unlocking your potential. A healthy balance of humility and confidence is essential.
Conviction and Integrity
People trust those who do what they say they will do. They respect those who stand by their convictions and whose values cannot be shaken. They are consistent and deeply committed to doing the right thing for the right reason.
People are drawn to integrity because it is a trait that they feel eludes them. When they see it in others, they follow them hoping to be inspired to make better personal choices.
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.
Have 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.
No matter what it is, there’s something utterly unique that sets them apart.
Learn How to Become a Better Leader
There are a few things that you can do to build the skills required for a strong executive presence, including:
- Record yourself – video/audio
- Get feedback from friends and colleagues
- Watch ted talks
- Hiring an executive leadership coach
With over 30 years of experience coaching and empowering executives, we can help you overcome obstacles and improve your performance.
Let’s connect and talk about how to transform you into the leader you are meant to be. Book an appointment with me today using this online calendar.
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:
How to Organize Your Team for Maximum Productivity
How to Promote a Culture of Psychological Safety at Work
Reteaming Efforts: Adding or Subtracting People One by One
This article was originally published in 2018, but has been updated for 2021.
Great article; critical leadership behavioral skills and leadership qualities presented in a succinct summary. A great reminder of what makes great leaders great.
Thank you, David. How the heck are you? Are you still in consulting mode?
Great insight as usual, Greg! Thanks!
Thank you Craig! How are you doing?