In most cases, the human qualities of you the leader have a more lasting impact than the words of the message. When you are viewed as competent, credible, and objective you are considered a well-rounded leader.

Executive Presence - What is it and how do you get it?

In organizations across the world the phrase “executive presence” has come to be known as that extra something that makes you an inspiring leader and can take you to the top of your company. Without it you can be lost in the middle manager ranks for decades.


Executive presence is not a technique or a style that you implement or mimic. It is something you gain through experience, self-awareness, true confidence and authenticity as a leader.


Unfortunately you can never shorten the road that leads to experience. You must have a well-rounded view of your business and industry mostly gained through day to day, hands on managing. As you are gaining that experience, you can also work on your communication skills which are the gauge by which senior management measures your level of executive presence. Your insight, understanding and ability to articulate your views in an objective, measured, focused manner are important as we have just learned.


In addition, your YOU Factors also play a major role. What you say and how you say it (verbal and non-verbal) are packaged together and create the whole perception. This familiar phrase states it best, PERCEPTION IS REALITY. The best plan, cutting edge idea, and most expertly crafted presentation will fall flat when delivered without energy, conviction, connection and confidence. In most cases, the human qualities of you the leader have a more lasting impact than the words of the message. When you are viewed as competent, credible, and objective you are considered a well-rounded leader. If you communicate at times with bravado, anger, impatience, emotion or disdain, you will begin to develop a perception as a “difficult” person. No matter how competent you are, this perception will begin to dominate your net impression.


To establish credibility as well as objectivity you must find the connection to what everyone is working toward. You must demonstrate that you are not so entrenched and enamored with your own ideas that you cannot see the greater strategic objective for the organization. Trust and credibility are critical factors in establishing executive presence. Trust and credibility are difficult to gain, and once lost almost impossible to rebuild.


Language of a Leader

As a leader, accuracy in communication and language is imperative. That means not over-emphasizing negatives or positives. Many audiences complain about the overload of information and the over-answering of questions when a simple explanation or direct answer will do.


You can undermine your credibility by rambling on too long in both verbal and written communication. In addition, many communicators have habits that detract from their credibility which can become more pronounced when they are nervous or frustrated. Sometimes they are oblivious to them. Non words like “uhm” and “ah” are used to fill dead air space while they are searching for the next word. When used in abundance, the person comes across as lost, insecure, unprepared and ineffective.


Pausing instead of using a non-word is preferable however most people believe the pause will make them sound less effective. In reality the opposite is true. The pause is one of the best tools a leader can master for its ability to allow them to “think on their feet”. Words and phrases such as “you know”, “kind of”, “sort of”, “I mean”, “well”, and “so”, are called hedges and they are often used to lessen the impact of a point. They also make us sound unsure about our material and create doubt in the mind of the audience. The word “so” is particularly overused in scientific, data and academic presentations. Intensifiers are words that try to create more impact but have the effect of making us sound insincere and overly effusive.


For example, “this is really the most important development in a really long time.” Seems silly but is surprisingly common in presentations. Listen for the particular words or phrases that you fall back on most often. You can break the habit but only if you can hear yourself as others hear you.


Demonstrate Leadership in All Communication

Many people spend hours building PowerPoint slides for presentations but mindlessly dash off an email and send it without reviewing it first. Nothing says “I’m too busy for you” than a terse, three-word answer to an email question from a senior level person.


All of your communication is a reflection of you and written communication more than any other is a permanent record.


Certainly always pick up the telephone and reach out to someone if your response is lengthy or of a sensitive nature. The less controversial or negative information included in an email the better. However don’t just send short spurts of information back and forth. Truly think about what they need to know and want to know then deliver that information in the opening sentence or paragraph. In news it is known as “don’t bury the lead” and it works for email as well.

Coaching Corner