Six Behavioral Traits That Define Executive Presence
Executive presence can mean different things. It is important to ensure you have a behavioral understanding of this term. This will allow you to have a definition of what to work towards.
In the purest sense executive presence is the ability to be in the center of the room without hogging all the attention. Humility and humbleness create a balance between knowing and sharing expertise.
Here are the key components of executive presence:
External Demeanor - Your packaging matters. Look to the top of the house. Do you dress like a senior executive? You must convey success, confidence and respect. If you aspire to be an A player but look like a B player, why would anyone listen to you?
Body Language - Many complex components go into the mix. Is your handshake firm, do you make eye contact, does your posture reflect that you stand tall? One of my clients, a CEO, is 5’7”. He said he will never forget one of his early job interviews. He was interviewing for a senior manager role and the executive responsible for the hiring closed the interview and commented to my client, “I thought for sure you were over 6 feet tall.” My client stated that although he was stunned by the comment he now knows he made a lasting impact.
Tone of Voice - Ensure you are not flip, sarcastic or a know-it-all. Being confident means having the right volume. Can we hear you? If you are tentative then the audience feels that you too don’t believe in yourself.
Sound Bite - You need one. Practice this. If you were in an elevator with a senior executive and you had 60 seconds could you articulate how you intend to add value?
Need to Speak versus Need to Be Right - You are at the table. What’s your point of view? Yes, many of your peers do speak without adding value. Be courageous and offer input. Being wrong is better than being silent. Silence means you have nothing to say.
Emotional Resilience - Your team looks to you for stewardship. During challenging times of course you don’t have all the answers. In the eye of the storm do you react with fear or impulse or do you convey that you are in control and will find the path? Set the tone. Demonstrate that you are at the helm and with the support of your team you will carve out the best solution.
There are great role models in every organization. Regardless of your industry sector executive presence is a universally required leadership brand. Lift your head up, get out of the weeds and place credence in you how you show up to the party.
Cindy Wahler, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in succession planning and talent management. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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