How to Cultivate Executive Presence

Part 2 of 5

11 Aspects of Executive Presence

The qualities associated with executive presence can be difficult to learn and practice. Developing them without the help of qualified coaches and mentors may proof impossible. You can work on and improve some of these competencies, but they may evade certain personalities.

Most people aren’t born with executive presence. They develop the requisite skills with experience, maturity and a great deal of effort.

One important caveat: Don’t confuse executive presence with speaking or presentation skills. They’re part of the total package, but presence is what you project wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Your challenge lies in managing others’ perceptions of you, which is no small task.

Here are 11 qualities that contribute to executive presence:

  • Transparency: Genuine, open, straightforward, comfortable in one’s skin. Aims for truth and clarity, even when difficult issues arise. Doesn’t try to please or cover up with spin.
  • Passion: Loves and feels strongly about the profession, job, industry and life in general. Sees and believes in optimism.
  • Clarity: Communicates thoughts, feelings and insights with crystal clarity and simplicity. Master of metaphors and stories that make an impact.
  • Intelligence: The ability to process, retain and apply information, whether it’s academic or street-worthy.
  • Pattern Recognition: The ability to boil down complex factors and mounds of data to rare conclusions. Offers insights others may not see.
  • Results-Oriented: Driven and full of purpose; determined to achieve and succeed. Able to discern dichotomies, unravel paradoxes and work with uncertainties. Flexible and willing to adjust goals. Decisive under pressure. A bias toward action. An attitude of giving, rather than getting. Works in the service of common goals for the organization’s and society’s higher values.
  • Confidence: Not overconfident; has enough self-doubt to be objective. Asks questions and listens.
  • Humility: Willing to admit mistakes, misjudgments, fears and uncertainties in ways that are endearing. Seeks answers and advice; listens to others.
  • Courage: Willing to take risks and positions against considerable odds. May be seen as a maverick. Able to perceive possibilities and innovations.
  • Humor: Not over-the-top, but in the right measure to disarm others’ defenses.
  • Social: Genuinely cares about others; sees both strengths and weaknesses in people. Allows for people to learn from mistakes. Promotes healthy self-esteem in others. Respects others and shows a real – not manufactured or superficial – interest in them.

Keep in mind that no single leader possesses all of these qualities in abundance. For example, many successful CEOs with strong executive presence lack one or more of the likeability factors, such as humor and humility, but they make up for it in other domains.

Come back tomorrow for Part 3: Storytelling for Professional Success


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