What is Executive Presence?
I believe that executive presence means that you look, sound and feel like you belong in a leadership role.
Presence means that you show up and look like you are present. That you are comfortable and most importantly that you belong in your position.
Presence might mean looking good when you don’t feel good. Presence means owing your space – physical, emotional and relational.
Physical presence is conveyed by the way you sit, stand and move within the room. Do you appear to be comfortable with the room and connecting with the people in the room. Of the three forms of physical presence, the most important is movement. Why? Because that is when we are most uncomfortable. The more comfortable you can appear while moving about the room, the more powerful you appear.
Emotional presence is from your self talk. Speak positive to yourself. I belong here. I can talk with these people. I respect them and they respect me. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t need to. I can learn from them and they can learn from me. We might be better off helping each other. I feel good about this meeting. We don’t need to like each other to work together. We simply need to respect the value that each of us brings.
Relational presence means you don’t need to dominate the conversation. You are willing to ask questions, listen and think before you respond. You don’t feel offended by a direct question. You don’t feel attacked by a difference of perspective. We are a team and we are better when we work together. I am not intimidated by them and I don’t need to intimidate or bully others to feel valued.
What’s the opposite of presence?
What might executive or leadership absence convey? The lack of confidence, credibility, trust, leadership, humility, empathy,
You might run a checklist of how you are present and how you are absent then adjust accordingly.
What might be the elements of executive or leadership presence?
How you look
Do you appear calm and in control especially when things go wrong? In a crisis we search out leaders who appear to look like they know what they are doing. No one can read your mind.
What you wear
This might seem trivial, yet you are judged by what you wear. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg set their own standards for dress. You must dress like you are comfortable and suit the role.
How you stand and move
How do you move? Learn from dancers. Watch how they move on purpose. Notice how they own their space. Maybe you need to take a dance class to learn the fundamentals of stance and movement. At least watch a ballet and study the moves.
Many of us like to believe that we understand body language. We don’t. we simply believe that we do. Body language isn’t a language. It’s more like a code. That means we think we know but we’re not sure. We interpret and misinterpret body code. Become more aware of how people might interpret your body code. Become aware of the ticks and disruptive body signals you might be sending.
How you sound
Your voice contributes to your executive presence. Do you sound certain or does it sound like a question when you didn’t intend it to be a question? Is this a question? Did you mean what you said? Does your tone, pace and diction convey confidence and clarity?
What you say
Speak so people understand your message. Chose clear and specific words. Use power words. Demonstrate a knowledge of appropriate vocabulary. Don’t be afraid to introduce intellectual concepts and terms and then explain them clearly.
What you don’t say
Avoid the clichés. Watch out for the distracting filler words. Scrap the weasel words, jargon and vague terminology. Presences demands that you say less and say it clearer.
How you treat others
How do you treat your staff? How do you treat restaurant staff? You are not a god or royalty. We are people who perform different roles today. Those roles can change. Stop dithering.
How you look when you don’t know
Sometimes you don’t know the answer or even the right questions. That’s okay. And sometimes you don’t know and are curious and want to know more. That’s okay. When you are the leader there are times when you don’t know and others look to you for guidance and confidence – and you need to appear in control. That’s executive presence.
Your reputation proceeds you
What do people say about you behind your back? What stories circulate about your highs and lows? Do they respect you, fear you, distain you, distrust you or simply question your capability? This is your personal brand. What are the stories that people tell about you? This is the presence that arrives in the room before you show up.
As you can imagine, your executive presence is multifaced. You can’t get it right all the time. Simply be aware of what you can do and that others might see you differently then you are or pretend to be.