What Is Executive Presence?

executive leader

As a leader, you are the person people look to for guidance and direction. You need to step up and be that person. How you do this is up to you.

Your Executive Presence encompasses both the role or position you hold, and how you enact this role. Both are central to your identity. Your Executive Presence reflects how you convey your identity to those around you.

Knowing who you are and how you impact people are significant elements of your Presence. 

How do those around you experience you? Would they experience you as into the detail, micromanaging, or that their interactions with you are considered and thoughtful?

Do people experience you as inspirational or autocratic? Do those around you experience you as keenly interested in them and how they go about what they are doing? Or, do they experience a lack of care, seeing that you are only interested in achieving outcomes?

Leaders who are unaware of their capabilities, or are distracted or silent on important matters tend to be perceived as invisible. These people are the faceless men and women in our organisations, and they tend to have little Executive Presence. They may have considerable political nous, but little Presence in that those around them don’t know what they stand for or what or who is important to them.

Executive Presence reflects your capacity to balance your technical and professional competence, and includes at least five elements (RACIR): 

  • relationships
  • authenticity
  • credibility,
  • identity
  • reputation

These elements are invisible and yet each one is influential in creating how you are perceived by others.

Executive Presence reflects your ability to both know and accept your capacities alongside your vision for creating a positive future by being in a relationship with both the people and situations you are currently in.

One effect of a strong Executive Presence is to create mutual (two-way) relationships. You know when you are with someone with Executive Presence. You want to hear from them, and you want to find out more from them.

Do you develop Executive Presence or is it something leaders are born with?

Increasing your Executive Presence relates to the personal aspects of your professional identity. A starting point is being aware of how you impact others and knowing whether this creates the presence relevant to your current position and what you want to achieve.

Executive Presence requires leaders to go beyond feedback and discover how they impact those around them. They learn to see themselves through the eyes of others. 

This assists in two ways. 

Firstly, leaders, develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the needs of those around them. Secondly, they see and accept how they are perceived. This in itself lets leaders modify their responses. Leaders learn to tailor their message and approach to suit the stakeholders, the current situation, and the outcome they are seeking.

As leaders develop their Presence, what are some of the goals they set themselves? Here are a few from a recent programme I led:

  • Make positive first impressions without needing content.
  • Swiftly make myself known in groups.
  • To have strong mutual relationships with peers and staff, across the sector I work in and beyond.
  • Taking risks when the stakes are high reputationally when someone pushes back on my view – I chose my response.
  • Be approachable, influential, and easy to work with.
  • The first impressions people I haven’t met previously, are left with is that I come across as attentive, open, authoritative, and trustworthy.

How do these sound to you? 

To me, these are inspirational goals. Mostly those who set these goals would have no idea how they would achieve them, but they do have a vision and a sense of whom they want to be as leaders.

In the Executive Presence programme, we identify how to know if you were successful in achieving your goals. Here are some success measures leaders have identified:

  • I am sought after to lead cross-government projects.
  • I hold my ground and my relationships when peers push back, and we progress the business at hand together.
  • Peers, bosses, and stakeholders seek me out for my views.

If you are interested in developing your Executive Presence, contact me, and participate in one of my programmes.

© Diana Jones

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