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Looking for Your Executive Presence? Start Searching Within!

May 27, 2014

It seems like ‘Executive Presence’ has become the latest buzz terminology in leadership development around making people more effective leaders. I have received a spike in the number of executives over the past year signing up for Potential Unlimited’s Executive Coaching program saying they want to improve their executive presence.

Executive presence is extremely important, just as it has always been. This term can be vague and mean different things for different people. But overall, I think executive presence comes down to leading confidently while incorporating authentic leadership. We all have a presence when we walk into a room. Often, it is reflected by your personality in combination with your confidence in a particular situation. It is possible that your executive presence could be different with your team than when you are meeting with a group of more senior leaders.

I find that developing an individual’s Executive Presence is often a customized approach because we each have different styles and values, but I wanted to share some of the common themes I see in my work in this area as well as my top tips in making some shifts to improve your own executive presence.

Top Tips for Building a Strong, Authentic Executive Presence:

1. Watch for role models, but don’t model them. There are a lot of skills that we can learn from modelling others, but I would actually advise you not to model others when it comes to executive presence. Let me give you an example of what I see quite often. I sit in on leadership meetings and I watch the CEO talk and behave a certain way. Then whether it happens consciously or not, other leaders tend to use the same phrases, talk in the same manner and actually begin to physically mirror the CEO. Then when they leave these meetings, leaders continue their mirror behaviour when communicating with their own teams. And, here begins the cultural norm for leadership within that organization. But, what happens in this situation is the organization begins to lose its diversity. Teams become targets for groupthink. And authentic leadership is lost.

So, I ask you when building your executive presence to create a style that feels right for who you are as a person as well as a leader. Use language that feels right for you. Don’t copy other leaders. Share your opinions, even if they may ‘rock the boat.’

2. Talk and Act According to What Feels Right For You. Know what your top values are when it comes to leadership. For me, it is people, profit, focus and fun. That is a style I have developed over the years that feels right for what I believe is most important and fits for me. Your style and top leadership values may be very different.

It is important to know what these values are and if they could possibly conflict. For me, sometimes people and profit could be complementary and other times, they are conflicted. Sometimes that conflict applies to focus and fun too. I need to know which value trumps the other when the tough decisions need to be made, while allowing myself to be flexible with each situation.

3. Be Confident in the Way You Speak. I teach Potential Unlimited’s ‘Present like a Pro’ course to help leaders who are average speakers become dynamic and engaging presenters. Some of the tips I will share with you here include: Be prepared as much as possible before you enter a meeting; Speak in a slightly lower smoother tone to promote a more confident sound quality; Look others in the eyes when you speak (not just the person with the greatest decision-making authority at the table); Relax and breathe deeply which actually calms your nervous system and will make you more in control.

4. Be Confident in the Way You Physically Carry Yourself. Chances are you are not even aware of how you physically appear to others at work. We tend to be so busy thinking and going through the motions that self-awareness, especially when it comes to the body, is lost.

My advice on this is to try to pay attention to your body language and how your body is feeling for one day. At the end of this day, evaluate what you noticed. Do you tend to slouch? Do you get a sore neck or back muscles? Do you feel your energy drained by a certain time each day?

Now, it’s time to make some changes. If you notice you are slouching, try to sit back. Even lean back more in your chair for meetings. This will show openness and it will relieve some tension in your body. Ensure your body language matches how you want to feel. If our bodies become tired, that will show and portray a lack of enthusiasm. Take breaks and exercise once a day to get your body in shape to help you physically portray your strong executive presence.

5. Be Vulnerable. Open Yourself to Others. There tends to be a misconception among some leaders that we should know all the answers. If asked, most leaders would tell you logically it is impossible to be on top of everything all of the time. Yet, inside they may expect that they really should know it all or else they may risk looking incompetent. But by holding yourself to an impossibly high standard, you will set yourself up for a lot of stress and possibly failure.

It is okay not to know all the answers. Ask your team. Ask other leaders. Listen more. Delegate as much as you can. Empower your people. And, share how you feel. Allow others to see who you are as a person. This will help create your most meaningful executive presence.

Find out more about improving your Executive Presence by signing up for Potential Unlimited’s Executive Coaching Program.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Gary & Marilyn Greenham permalink
    June 2, 2014 2:58 pm

    GREAT!

  2. June 2, 2014 4:16 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the article!

  3. Sandy permalink
    June 30, 2014 9:04 am

    Great article Carey-Ann!

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