It’s often touted as that “extra something” that prominent leaders possess, something that is honed over many years at the top, or within the realm only of those born with an innate ability to inspire awe and confidence.
Yes, it’s certainly critical as a leader to possess what’s commonly referred to as “executive presence”, but it doesn’t have to be mysterious, and yes, it can be learned, cultivated, and built by anyone.
At its core, executive presence is about confidence – confidence in your own abilities, and inspiring others to also have confidence in you. It’s also about trust, decisiveness and integrity being an integral part of your leadership style.
This is crucial in the corporate world, because so many important decisions about you will not be made with you in the room.
The more confidence you can inspire in those around you, the more opportunities that will come your way. This is why it’s so important a skill to cultivate, especially as you move up the career ladder and the opportunities come with higher stakes.
Oftentimes the reason we are looked over for a promotion is something to do with executive presence – and so very often, no specific feedback is actually given that we can improve upon, it’s just that “something” is missing from the way we present ourselves. The definition of frustrating for a high-achiever like you! Studies have shown that this can be anything from excessive BO, to the way you dress, to your tone of voice, and more.
In a Harvard Business Review article, “What to Do If Your Career Is Stalled and You Don’t Know Why”, by Elena Lytkina Botelho and Katie Semmer Creagh (November 09, 2018), they noted that in their study of why participants were turned down for a C-Suite role, 36% of the time it was because of their “executive presence”.
Further to this, 28% related to their communication style, 29% to peer-level relationships, and the remaining 7% included things like excessive optimism (!) and perfectionism. Interestingly, they also found that highly confident executives are 2.5 times more likely to be hired than those who don’t come across as self-assured – if that doesn’t spike your interest in growing your own confidence…!
So how do we cultivate such an abstract skill? Like any skill, some are inherently better at it than others, but with practice, it can be honed, and become a natural part of you (no “faking it until you make it” required!)
There are actually thousands of articles out there purporting to know how to increase one’s executive presence, but let’s keep it simple for now.
How about we start with you.
What are your views and beliefs around executive presence? Think of someone you admire for their executive presence – what is it about them that has such an impact on you?
Try listing out the key traits that you believe someone with buckets of executive presence has, and then hold a mirror up to yourself. This is purely information gathering, it’s a judgement-free zone!
This will give you a gap analysis as your starting point to building your own personal brand of executive presence – authentic and bespoke to you and your career needs.
Gathering feedback from those who know you, work closely with you, and who you trust, can also be an extremely useful tool. Instead of asking them for feedback, try asking them for advice – this gentle tweak will result in a slightly different, and most likely a more personal and insightful, conversation.
Of course, working with a Coach will help you immensely in building your own personal brand! Fresh ideas, research, tools and perspectives, along with regular checking-in and accountability, is the perfect foundation to making consistent, lasting, and above all authentic change.
Book in today for a free consultation to get you started on your way to nailing your own executive presence!