With so much talk about “executive presence” in leadership literature and blogs these days, you may be wondering what executive presence is and how you, or your leadership staff, can improve yours or theirs. This blogpost provides clear, actionable answers.
Executive presence: a primer
Executive presence is essentially the ability to make an impact by engaging, influencing and inspiring others.
Individuals who have a strong executive presence share these characteristics:
- They project competence and confidence.
- They exhibit grace under pressure.
- They communicate skillfully with others.
- They build meaningful connections up and down the ladder.
- They articulate their vision in ways that create buy-in.
Why executive presence matters
Studies show that executive presence, sometimes called leadership presence, is a significant differentiator for high potential leaders and employees who aspire to leadership positions.
One study found that leadership presence constitutes fully a quarter of what it takes to be promoted at work. Another study determined that executive presence is the second most important leadership trait.
In short, executive presence is crucial for leadership success – especially as you move up the ladder.
3 building blocks of executive presence
While leadership training on executive presence often centers on an individual’s speaking and presentation skills and appearance, The Workplace Coach takes a different approach. We focus on areas that are foundational to the development of these more external capabilities.
In our work with executive coaching and leadership coaching clients, we often begin by exploring three components underlying authentic executive presence – values, emotional intelligence and strengths.
- Core values
Understanding the core values that drive you is key to leading with confidence, integrity and quiet authority. When you are grounded in knowing who you are and what you believe, confidence and authority naturally follow.
This self-knowledge helps leaders stay centered when facing challenging circumstances or in times of crisis.
Reconnecting with your core values also serves as a powerful touchstone and motivator – reminding you who you are, why you do what you do, and why it matters.
Clarity about your core values also provides a foundation for developing a clear and compelling vision and communicating that vision persuasively.
- Emotional Intelligence
The ability to influence, engage and inspire others depends on skillful communications, and the foundation of skillful communications is emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your own emotions and to recognize and respond to the emotions of others with empathy. These capabilities allow leaders to build and leverage healthy relationships with diverse audiences and stakeholders – from C-suite executives to team members, from strategic partners to the broader community.
In the workplace, positive relationships are a huge factor in employee engagement.
Leaders with high emotional intelligence also are good at projecting calm and resilience in turbulent times.
- Leveraging strengths
Leaders who have strong executive presence have a clear view of their own strengths and value. This is key to developing a CEO mindset.
Leaders who know their own strengths are able to communicate their expertise, vision and impact with conviction.
They leverage their strengths in interactions with others and find ways to compensate for weaknesses. They also have the self-assurance to take on challenging new projects.
Coaching support makes a difference
At The Workplace Coach, we guide our executive and leadership coaching clients in values-clarification exercises to help them identify and reconnect with their core values. We partner with them to hone their emotional intelligence and communication skills, and we assist them in creating leadership development plans that build on their strengths.
These steps, together with the support and accountability provided by our award-winning coaches, underpin the development of a well-grounded confidence, which is important to projecting an authentic and persuasive leadership style.
Our coaches have partnered with thousands of leaders, from Fortune 500 execs to small business owners. In our experience, developing or improving executive presence is an area where high-potential leaders and aspiring leaders derive enormous value from our executive coaching services and support.