6 Components Of Executive Presence

Executive presence is less about how we show up, and more how others say they feel when we show up. Our executive presence used to rely on character and integrity as the ruling kings of leadership and boardroom ethos. Then in the 1880’s robber barons took hold of money, titles, and power in society. We began to give more weight on the personality and style of power. The execution of a proper business handshake, the style of our clothing, the way we speak, and the king-pin attitude led to ‘Fake it till you make it.’ When we turn WIIFM (what’s in it for me) into money and power, we learn that high ego equates high results. It means we might want to be careful what we chase – character or cash.

Executive presence (EP) actually combines principles of inner beliefs and values with external competence and results. Stephen Covey said where character and competence meet is called credibility. Sylvia Ann Hewlett asserts that EP is a combination of gravitas, communication, and appearance. Whether we are in the boardroom or aspire for real leadership, executive level presence blends character, competence, and confidence to build a positive model of leadership and achievement.  

Here are 6 components of Executive Presence:

1. Values: To really understand our values we should write them down and take an inventory of our beliefs and ideals. Our values are what motivate, inspire, and define us. If we don’t know what we stand for, someone else will define for us our  beliefs through their influence on our actions.  

2. Humility: When our ego goes down, we exposure our humility. In failure, humility is called vulnerability and opening ourselves to the reality that we are human. This is everything to those following us. We will more likely follow someone who shows their human side – prone to mistakes – than someone who claims to know it all.

3. Posture and body language: I had a former leader tell me one time that even in the moments you are simply walking into a room, do so with the intent that you are walking to the stage to receive an award during a standing ovation. One of the biggest drivers of confidence and executive presence is how we hold ourselves and the body language we use – even when no one is looking.

4. Listen with our eyes: To hear the words around us is hearing not listening. Listening is to hear what is not spoken. To be attuned to the tone of voice being used and the body language is most of the message, less the actual words we hear. When our self-belief comes through in your choice of words, tone, and body language, our power increases. Notice that some people with confidence will carefully select their words and tend to avoid using 30 words when just 10 will do.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.” ~ Albert Einstein

5. Coach with our heart: Our words and how we say them passionately about a subject, conveys gravitas. We can handle the truth but what we can’t handle is shame. We grew up learning to either tell the truth, or keep a friend, and we struggle everyday to decide how candid is too candid. There is a big gaping canyon between correcting and coaching.  Leading with our heart, means comments and questions more coming from curiosity rather than the intent to challenge.

6. Thinking and speaking: We need to calm our fast tongue and quick actions. Business success is fast or big, over small or slow, except when it comes to EP. We believe business and our success is all about being efficient and effective.  Those actions are lethal to our executive presence, as people and relationships require pull not push.

Don’t be efficient with people.” ~ Stephen Covey.  

EP means we are aware how powerful our words and actions can become, and we must step assuredly to build teams and lead people who are capable of winning.

All appearances of EP – good manners, clothes, posture and language – will be properly aligned if we build from the inner self out, and less from the outside in.


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