Executive Presence: Do You Have It?

Much has been written about executive presence.  It is a nebulous term, but we recognize it when we see it. Steve Tobak, a consultant and former high-tech senior executive, says that you won’t know if you have executive presence. He states that few people possess that level of self-awareness and objectivity.

While difficult to define, executive presence can propel your career.  If you are a business owner and you exhibit this type of presence, your customers believe that you can meet their need or develop the product that will solve their problem.  If you are an executive managing a company, your employees trust you.  They breathe a sigh of relief when you walk into the meeting because they perceive you as a leader who carefully considers the options and takes action.  They want to follow you.

However, there is some disappointing news:  executive presence takes time to develop and it develops organically.  Executive presence should not be confused with being articulate or a great speaker.  These traits are certainly in the mix but they do not define presence.  Executive presence is associated with character and experience. You are making deposits in your “bank” of experience every day you are on the job doing what you do best.  You miss the whole point if you chase after “executive presence” through coaching, training, self-help books, etc.

What you can do is focus on developing your expertise and influence over time.  The following are eight key traits that can influence others to take notice when you walk in the room.

  1. Develop competence in your area of expertise.  Intelligence is a key component of executive presence.
  2. Demonstrate character.  Who are you when no one is looking?  Do the right thing even when it hurts.
  3. Be authentic. Don’t copy another leader.  Be yourself.
  4. Develop your listening skills.  Effective and mindful listening is a rarity. This one trait will enhance your influence more than any other if you deliberately develop it.  It has been said that others will not listen to you until they are sure that you have heard them.
  5.  Dress professionally and tastefully.  Hire someone to help you if you don’t have an innate sense of style.
  6. Think and speak with clarity.
  7. Be confident……take care of whatever is stifling your self-confidence
  8. Be determined.  Don’t ever give up.  Keep moving toward the goal.

While you are busy leading others and accomplishing your goals at work, the eights traits are evolving. Much like wisdom, executive presence develops along the way.  Experience and your response to it is propelling you towards developing executive presence. Someone else will recognize it in you before you do.