3 strategies for building your executive presence to improve your career in leadership.

3 strategies for building your executive presence to improve your career in leadership.
October 18, 2021 Linda Murray

Executive Presence. It’s not the sort of thing you can grab with your hands or define in a few words, but it’s the thing every successful leader has.

What is it? How can you get it? How can you maintain it in the long term? 

What is Executive Presence?

I think a lot of people are confused about the difference between executive presence and personal branding. They are not the same thing.

Let me ask you this. Have you ever been at a meeting or a party when someone arrived and everyone in the room noticed? It’s not that they burst loudly into the room. It’s something about the way they present themselves. Their energy. You become aware of them even if you don’t know who they are. That’s presence

Personal branding is about reputation and what you stand for. It’s more to do with what people say and know about you. Therefore, it’s based on everything you say and do. 

Elements of executive presence.

According to Sylvia Ann Hewlitt, author of Executive Presence, there are three components of presence:

  • Gravitas – how you act
  • Communication – how you speak
  • Appearance – how you look

Gravitas is the core element of presence. It refers to the ability to share a vision, to be confident and decisive, as well as to act with integrity. It’s composure in the face of challenges.

Communication refers to verbal and non-verbal communication skills, along with the ability to read and interpret the reactions of the people you are speaking with. It requires emotional intelligence to gauge the feeling you’re creating. It’s about being present and in the moment with the person you’re talking with.

Appearance relates to looking the part. It’s about grooming and personal presentation. While this might not seem important, according to the author, it’s the “filter through which your communication skills and gravitas become more apparent.” I appreciate no everyone enjoys wearing make-up or getting all ‘dolled up’ every day, and remaining authentic is really important. It is important to look presentable and to ensure your appearance represents how you want to be perceived.

How does presence improve your career and leadership?

Presence gets you noticed. That means your ideas will gain attention, as will your actions. There’s a self-confidence in people who have a presence, and it encourages others to have confidence, too. It gives you leverage, and it inspires people to trust in you and your vision. When it comes to career advancement or new opportunities, it’s the person with executive presence who will be offered the first chance at each.

How can you develop executive presence?

Building your executive presence requires self-awareness. 

1. Adopt strong and positive body language

Your body speaks before you do so it’s vital that it presents the message (image) you want. Take the time to watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on body language because it explains it beautifully. Then look in the mirror to learn what your body is saying about you. Shape yourself to present with presence – stand straight with an open posture and smile as you look people in the eye.

2. Listen before speaking

People with presence are excellent listeners and give you their full attention while you speak with them. Not only does this build rapport and establish solid relationships, it encourages others to trust you enough to say what they really think. When that happens, you know how to formulate a response to satisfy both of you

3. Invest in your appearance

You don’t need to buy expensive clothes but take the time to make sure what you’re wearing, and your personal presentation is not a distraction. As I say, ‘if you can see up it, down it or through it, save it for the weekend’. Dress the part and keep your messaging consistent.

In my next article, I’ll share some ideas around personal branding because this goes hand-in-hand with developing the impact you want as a leader.

In the meantime, if you’re ready to start shaping your executive presence, let’s talk about the Executive Presence workshop, part of Athena Leadership Academy. Ensure your presence is authentic and aligned online and off for personal and career integrity.

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