I was recently working with a client who described herself as an introvert. She was uncomfortable presenting herself among a big group and was concerned that she lacked executive presence.
I asked her to explain to me what she thought executive presence looked like, and she replied using words like ‘vocal’, ‘energetic’, ‘confident’ and ‘loud’. I asked whether there was a difference between ‘presence’ and ‘being present in the room’; this is where the conversation started.
In my experience, extroverted people can have a strong executive presence, but they can also dominate a room or conversation, missing important input as a result. We agreed to dig deep into executive presence and how it might show in introverts and extroverts.
We came up with seven key points to remember.
- Stop equating executive presence with noise. Being noticeable doesn’t mean you’re inspiring people to follow you. People follow leaders who make them feel valued and cared for. They follow leaders who listen and are open to conversation.
- Use the skills you’ve been given as an introvert – listening, reflecting, empathising. Use your soft skills to demonstrate real presence, not just attendance. Introverts have a gift for building and maintaining relationships. It’s easy to be swept away on someone’s energy and enthusiasm, but in the long term, it’s the strength of your relationships which makes the difference.
- Introverts have the advantage in a changing world. They are often more open to new ideas and will actively support people and strategies they believe in. Extraverts are more likely to “be less receptive: They shoot down suggestions and discourage employees from contributing.”
- Confidence doesn’t have to be loud. Quiet confidence is inspiring and wins trust more easily.
- Confidence comes from knowing yourself, your strengths, and your passions. You know what matters and what you stand for, and you act accordingly. You inspire trust and loyalty by sharing who you are and being authentically you.
- Understand that people will see the image you choose to present. No one will know you lack confidence unless you show it. Find ways to comfortably show a confident presence, including eye contact, strong posture, and calmness.
- Stop worrying about yourself. The more you focus on how you’re feeling, the less information you can gather from listening and observing the people around you. And stop labelling yourself. You are not restricted to someone’s idea of introversion. You are YOU, and that is exactly what you need to be.
What happened to my client? First, she relaxed and allowed herself to be the calm, clever person she was. She practised her body language until she felt comfortable that it portrayed confidence even if she was feeling nervous. Most importantly, she learnt to stand her ground in the face of extravert energy and quietly but clearly express her opinions.
Executive presence can be learnt and clearly demonstrated even if you’re an introvert, but it can be hard to do alone. Let’s work together to build your confidence and help you discover the skills you have to boost your natural executive presence.