What is executive presence? Picture Michelle and Barack Obama, Anna Wintour, Richard Branson. People with executive presence hold a charismatic power. Leaders who instantly grab people’s attention and make them not only want to listen, but act. They possess a certain something – as the French would say, a je ne sais quoi.
You may believe job titles grant this ‘it’ factor. As though Jeff Bezos used to walk insecure until he became a CEO. In reality, looking like a strong leader takes time and practise – it doesn’t come with a powerful position.
People with executive presence appear:
All-important traits to have in business. According to knowledgecity.com, individuals with executive presence ‘have impeccable communication skills’, ‘sound decision-making’ and work ‘well under pressure’.
Why it’s beneficial in any position
Reread the bullet points above and ask yourself how successful your career would be if people thought the opposite. If you seemed uninspiring, unreliable, unable… Without actually working on these characteristics, many assume their bosses and co-workers think of them positively in each area. Individuals tend to rely on their qualifications, skill set and hard work to prove their value. And while we’re not suggesting these aspects don’t matter, skills may get you through the door, but executive presence helps you climb up the ladder.
To have executive presence means to have style, manners and substance in addition to the experience and know-how.
So, to come across as a qualified leader, you’ll want to build on your self-confidence and self-image. How you see yourself helps shape how others perceive you. It affects how you enter a meeting, present your ideas as well as your overall work ethic. Here are 5 ways to build confidence to help impact your presence at work.
Confront your biggest beliefs
When working on personal development, I use to exercise, read, journal. Simple tasks career coaches love recommending. Up to a point, they worked. Yet it was when sitting alone at a restaurant (coffee and book on table), I began to really focus on my negative self-image. In that moment, I realised I had a fear of confirming the belief that no one cared. I wasn’t interesting enough, I’d end up alone, people could tell I wasn’t worth meeting. By having someone with me out in public, that fear could stay hiding.
Growing up, we form certain beliefs about ourselves which our brains tell us are true. Negative beliefs that affect business include: I’m bad at public speaking, I’m not very creative, I don’t do well with money.
Analyse your bosses (or an inspiring leader) and pick out traits that make them look powerful. Here’s an example: You have a boss who manages to always look impeccably groomed. Their clothes are designer, their hair constantly looks newly cut. They walk with such confidence; you can’t help but feel intimated. Now imagine your intimidation stems from your insecurity over your finances. That your bosses’ clothes emphasise your self-doubt on money. Whenever you’re in a room with wealthy people, your leadership diminishes because you can’t get pass the money barrier.
Write down your negative self-beliefs and then take time to create a plan on how to overcome them.
Put yourself in executive shoes
This is a fantastic exercise for confidence building. From the moment you wake up, go about your day assuming you’re in a top-level position. What would you eat, what time would you awake? How would you manage your schedule? What would you wear, how would you walk? How would you enter a room and what would you say to greet everyone?
When practised, this train of thought gives you an overview of your job and let’s you pick out areas you’re not comfortable with. It allows you to bridge the gap between you and your ideal position. Once you take note of what habits you find difficult to adapt (perhaps walking confidently in a meeting feels strange), you can then work on these habits individually, thus improving your executive presence.
Research body language
As stated on Very Well Mind, working on ‘body language can increase self-esteem and make you feel better about yourself’. Plus, it can make you look more poised and crucially, more confident. Ensure you hold eye contact, avoid fidgeting and don’t slouch. If you walk in a room knowing your body language is good, you’ll likely feel less worried about how you come across.
Learn to breathe
On one of our Instagram posts (@agoodday.careers – yes, you should follow us), we mention how people judge intelligence based on voice. Three factors to note: Tone, speed, use of conversation fillers (um, hmm, err).
When we’re nervous, we tend to talk fast, edit our natural voice pitch and start lots of conversations with ‘well, umm, I guess, umm’ (not very executive, right). As The Muse states, executive presence means not sounding ‘flustered’; it’s about coming across ‘composed’.
To achieve composure, let yourself get use to silences. We often want to fill them with more conversation, though this typically leads to rambling or using fantastic ‘umm’ and ‘err’ sounds. Take a moment before entering a room to take a deep breath and put yourself together. If you’re in a meeting or interview and you need a minute to think, give yourself that minute.
Ask people for feedback
On our blog The Impact of Perception, we advise asking for feedback to find out how you’re perceived. Approach people who can objectively share their opinions. By doing this, you can understand what to focus on and you’ll better know what will aid you in gaining an executive presence. Confidence can increase both by putting yourself out there and on taking time to improve your self-development.
What other tips do you suggest for achieving executive presence? What leader exude this trait? Why not read next, How to Make and Stick to a Decision