Executive presence – the X-factor; why some leaders have it and some don’t.
Leaders with executive presence stand out. From the moment they enter the room, they command attention. They have the X-factor which makes people pay attention to them even though they don’t seem to ask for it.
As an Executive Coach, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with leaders who have this presence, and it’s inspiring. It can be difficult to work out what they do which gives them this presence.
Over years of working with and observing executives, with and without presence, I’ve noticed some key characteristics they all use.
Four characteristics of executive presence.
Composed: Nothing seems to ruffle their feathers. I believe some of this is because people with executive presence have a high level of emotional intelligence; enough to recognise and manage their own emotions and to understand how others are feeling.
Prepared: It’s much easier to maintain composure when you are prepared. It gives you a feeling of confidence that you’ll be able to handle anything that is thrown at you. People with executive presence are well prepared but they also refuse to allow themselves to be pressured into an answer when they feel uninformed. If you watch closely, they allow themselves to pause before answering, giving themselves time to think. They aren’t afraid to say they don’t have an answer but always explain how they will find one.
Clear: I often quote George Bernard Shaw when he said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that is has taken place.” Lots of us go into too much detail trying to cover everything everyone might ask us about. We think we’ve conveyed a clear message, but what we’ve actually done is to blur it. People with executive presence are always great communicators and in fact, they make it seem easy. They focus on using simple, straightforward statements to make their point. Detail can come later if it’s needed.
Engaged: When you watch someone with real presence, you’ll notice how they include everyone in their conversation. It might be with a direct comment or question, but always they make eye contact with everyone. This is how they gauge the response and level of understanding they are getting from the room. It’s also how they get people on the side because it makes them feel valuable and special. It wins the trust and inspires loyalty. And, of course, it’s always easier to pay attention to someone who pays attention to you!
Presence is being present.
Amy Cuddy puts it well when she says “Presence with others is first about showing up. Literally, physically, showing up.” She also says, “…when you become present, you allow others to be present. Presence doesn’t make you dominant in an alpha sense; it actually allows you to hear other people. And for them to feel heard.” At the heart of it – you care.
The good news is you can learn and develop the key characteristics of executive presence and leverage it to reach your goals. As a leader, it’s important to invest in yourself so you can lead and inspire the people around you to create a better world.
Do you need help to strengthen your presence? Don’t sit and envy the executive presence of others. Let’s work together to give you the confidence and skills you need to build your own presence. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get started.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your stories of people with presence and how they changed the world around you. Please share them in the comments below.