I have spent my entire career coaching, consulting, and speaking in order to enhance the value of leaders through intentional cultivation of their executive presence. Even before “EP” became a buzzword, I had helped hundreds of leaders leverage it for greater success. But many consultants focus only one or two elements of executive presence, which doesn’t really work in a credible or convincing way because it’s not well-rounded or deeply-ingrained.
The Center of Talent & Innovation conducted a survey of 4,000 CEOs. More than 25% of them said that what they feel they lack and need most is executive presence. I couldn’t agree more. But what I disagree with is that the survey only defined executive presence as being comprised of three pillars – appearance, communication, and gravitas. Experience has taught me that it goes beyond those three.
My definition is that your executive presence is the sum total expression of how you think, look, behave, and communicate to exude charismatic leadership. Let’s have a look at those four key ingredients, along with some success tips of mine, and you’ll see what I mean.
#1 What You Think is Who You Become
The first place that executive presence must take root is in the internal conversations in your head. Do you constantly engage in positive self-talk? Or do your thoughts reinforce a poor self-image, doubts about your leadership ability, or fears of failure? Each of us has a few gremlins lurking in the dark shadows of the mind. But those become strands of your leadership DNA and then leak out to sabotage your appearance, action, and verbal and non-verbal communications.
Success Tip: Focus on a positive mindset each and every day…until it is second nature and an integral part of your executive presence DNA. What you think eventually becomes the reality you live, so dig deep. Dislodge the sources of any insecurity and replace them with sources of internalized power that tap into your unlimited and phenomenally powerful subconscious mind.
#2 Look the Part You Want to Be Given
Don’t let your executive presence become the inadvertent casualty of a less-than-executive appearance. Model your appearance based on where you want to go, not where you used to be. Look to senior level executives for your cues. Top decision makers and the heads of Fortune 500 HR departments are always confiding in me that they have people they want to promote, but that those talented leaders just don’t look the part…so they get passed over. If you want greater responsibility you need to be ready to be the face of your organization…and that requires a conscientious effort to upgrade the appearance element of executive presence.
Success Tip: Ask yourself if you look like a role model for senior level leadership. Do you dress in a way that has a profound positive impact as soon as you enter a room? Does your outward appearance reflect the inner qualities you see in iconic leaders you admire for their palpable executive presence and leadership charisma? Look your absolute best and remember that what you project in your visual brand has a major influence on how others perceive you.
#3 Be Intentionally Mindful of Your 24/7 Behavior
Oftentimes executives start the day self-aware…but forget that others are looking at them as a role model all throughout the day. You may show up a few minutes late to a conference, or look distractedly at your phone during a meeting. Or when someone challenges your ideas, you might get defensive instead of drilling down to be more persuasive. When others are talking you may not be fully attentive. That makes them feel that what they have to contribute is not valued or appreciated. Make enough of these mistakes and it will erode your leadership brand.
Success Tip: You can’t have presence until you are fully present. That means that you are 100% engaged, listening and staying energetically tuned into what is going on around you. But that takes practice. Stop yourself every 15 minutes and check – are you being fully self-aware, and respectful of others? Are you behaving like the kind of leader you have always wanted to follow? Train yourself until it becomes instinctual, and you’ll have magnetic executive presence.
#4 Communicate with Verbal/Non-Verbal Influence
Just by upgrading your communication techniques, language, and presentation skills you can completely transform your executive presence. To achieve high levels of performance you have to develop a signature communication style that distinguishes you in tone, word choice, and nonverbal cues. It takes work. But once you master this vital leadership skill you can exert influence up, down, and across the organization. You can also use it to persuade clients, attract outside partnerships, and effectively manage your organization’s brand in the news media.
Success Tip: Begin by using powerful, persuasive language in every communication interaction. This will help you become more at ease while using power words and reinforcing messages with the right body language. Then when you have to prepare for a high-stakes presentation you’ll be comfortable and confident – which will come across in your executive presence in a way that can attract people to come on board with your ideas and proposals.
As you evaluate your goals and progress, ask yourself how you can do a more mindful job of thinking, looking, acting, and communicating charismatic leadership presence. Focus on these four keys to gain faster career velocity. Every day I see high potentials achieve grand promotions to more rewarding leadership roles, just because they apply these keys and tips on a daily basis.