Executive Presence: An Overlooked Success Factor

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Whether you call it charisma, confidence or compelling leadership, executive presence is in the spotlight.

So what is it anyway?

I am talking about more than making a great first impression. Presence is multifaceted, builds over time, and is reflected in everything you say, feel and do. It is grounded in who we are and what we stand for.

In today’s competitive business environment, executive presence can make or break your ability to influence others during periods of uncertainty and change. It encourages people to seek you out and opens doors or it ignores you.

The concept of presence is nebulous for most people, we all have it to a degree—and we know it when we see it in others. But most of us are unsure of how to increase our presence and develop it in others. The good news it that is can be learned and developed with awareness.

Many people assume it’s about showmanship, charm, unabashed confidence and smooth speaking skills, but this only scratches the surface.

It is important to know that introverts and extroverts can cultivate executive presence, regardless of position or level of power. It is not about becoming someone you’re not; rather, its focus is on becoming more of who you already are – grounded in your values, strengths and purpose.

It’s applicable to non-executive positions, as well as your personal life and team/community involvement. In fact, being mindful of presence benefits all aspects of your life.


A New Success Factor

Corporations are feverishly in search of individuals with presence whose potential can be developed more deeply, in part because of the heightened responsibilities of self-managed teams and work groups. People are being evaluated for presence in numerous routine business situations, including hiring, promotions, performance reviews and compensation bonuses.

Organizations are retaining coaches to help leaders cultivate executive presence. Presence has become a key differentiator and critical success factor for today’s professionals.

Fortunately, a wave of new books do a good job of covering the topic. Three of the best are:

  1. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire, by Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern (Penguin Group, 2004)
  2. The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, by Kristi Hedges (Amacom, 2012)
  3. Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (HarperBusiness, 2014)

Each book provides valuable information on the essential components, along with practical exercises to help you build your own personal brand of presence.

What’s been your experience with being aware of executive presence and trying to develop your presence or the presence of someone on your team? What are you unclear about it? Contact me, I’d love to hear from you.


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