Developing Your Executive Presence

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Listen and listen carefully, you need to develop your executive presence if you want to grow in your chosen career and succeed as a professional. Some of you may be asking, “What is Executive Presence”? According to Robin Camarote, “executive presence is the combination of communication skills, technical competencies, perspective, and temperament that instill a sense of confidence in a leader’s viewpoints and decisions. For those seeking leadership positions–especially in the C-suite–executive presence is an essential set of qualities needed to progress, influence others, and get results. Often, it’s getting a strong sense of who’s in charge the moment you walk into a room–even before people introduce themselves and share their titles.

Growing up in a large firm with a strong sense of history and culture, I heard a lot about executive presence–what it was, who had it, that every aspiring leader needed to have it. Most importantly, as you got to the middle management and top management, your technical skills became a given. They were taken for granted, the softer more undefinable skills became what you were measured against and one of the most important was executive presence. The question is how do you get people to develop this presence?

It can be done via training and coaching. We also encourage that each person also adds their own unique personality and perspective to the equation. The beauty of this approach is that building these skills must start early and is not just reserved for those in titled leadership positions. You can start working on each of them now. In fact, building a strong executive presence might just be the differentiator you need to get noticed and get picked for future opportunities. If you notice, those who get asked to attend meetings or represent their organisations are those with a strong executive presence.

Here are essential things to pay attention to when building your own executive presence:
Look the part. Executives in your organization likely dress in a similar level of formality. Whether that’s business attire or business casual. Noticing those trends and mirroring them in your own wardrobe is a starting place. Of course, bringing your own sense of style along is key.

Have an opinion. Leaders speak up on issues that matter to them when they have the opportunity. So should you. If you’re concerned about thinking up something relevant or if you like to have time to mull over points before forming an opinion, that is great, but do a little research ahead so you have some constructive and ready-made feedback to contribute.

When entering a room, take a moment before flying through the door to grab a seat to notice who is in the room. Pick the seat you want and take it, intentionally.
Ask great questions. Being known for asking great questions about how an issue will impact customers, staff, suppliers, partners, etc., will not only help you form opinions about key topics, you will be noticed for having the interests of important stakeholders in mind.

Sit up straight with your feet firmly on the ground. Focus on projecting your voice to the furthest person in the room without shouting. Speaking too quietly for everyone to hear and being asked to speak up can be embarrassing. It also erodes others’ sense of how confident you feel in your point. Our body language not only impacts what others think, it impacts how confident we feel

Avoid qualifying statements such as “I think…” “I’m sure you already thought of this but…” and “I don’t know if this is where we’re going with this, but… .”
Use body language. Lean from the inside-out, work from the outside-in by increasing awareness of the messages your body sends.

Connect, don’t transact. Maintaining your presence in front of an audience can be daunting, and public speaking can be uncomfortable. Connect with audiences by learning to tell engaging and captivating stories. Be mindful, clear your head to help you think strategically. This will influence you more effectively and improve your stature.

Be still. Calm is the foundation of presence — a tall order for most executives . To maintain a peaceful center, use breath-awareness exercises to help your anxiety. This will enable you speed up and slow down intentionally without negatively impacting your clarity or relationships and help manage stress.

The above are some of the areas you need to focus on and so much more that would take a lot of time to provide in an article. Please be intentional about your growth and career. If you have aspirations of moving on within your organization, starting to build your executive presence now will be a tremendous advantage in the future.