Larry Ellison has executive presence. So did Steve Jobs.
Although very different people, they both had that confidence and composure that allowed them to connect with others.
Chances are, you may need executive presence, too, to get venture capital for your business, motivate your staff or get a promotion. How important is presence?
In a survey of CIOs, conducted by Gartner, it was second on the list of the top 20 leadership traits that make a difference. By comparison, technology skills ranked 12th.
There are seven traits that professionals with strong executive presence display. And you don’t have to be the most gregarious or outspoken person in the room to demonstrate executive presence.
Composure: Self-awareness and understanding others are essential components of executive presence. The ability to control your emotions, recognise emotion in others and manage your response to them is key.
Connection: It’s critical to engage others when communicating and make them feel comfortable. The best way to connect is to understand your communication style challenges, how to overcome them, and how to read and adapt to the style of others.
Charisma: People who embody executive presence have the ability to draw others to them. This is often achieved through strong listening skills and an ability to stay “in the moment.” As a result, the people with whom you are communicating know that you are solely focused on them, and not distracted by the many other things you could be doing at that moment. They matter to you.
Confidence: One key aspect of executive presence is to communicate confidence both in what you say and how you say it. To appear confident, good posture is essential. Next, eye focus is critical. Ensure you only speak when making eye contact and manage your eye focus appropriately when communicating with more than one person — one thought per person. Ensure your facial expression matches your message and that your voice has good pitch, volume, and pace. And of course, you must look the part. Choose your wardrobe and accessories carefully.
Credibility: Not only is your content important, but the language you choose to deliver it will impact your credibility. Filler language such as “um,” “uh,” and “so” immediately detract from presence. As do minimizers like “just,” “sort of,” and “this may not be a good idea but…” When someone with strong presence speaks, others take note, and there is no doubt of the conviction behind their words.
Clarity: For you to exude presence, the ability to clearly communicate is fundamental. If your point is unclear, any hope of commanding attention is lost. Ask yourself, “What is my message in 10 words or fewer?” If you can’t articulate it to yourself you are not ready to communicate it to others.
Conciseness: Being verbose kills presence. Just as it is critical to know what you want to communicate, you must be able to do it concisely. Once you’ve delivered your message and validated it briefly, reverse back to others by asking, “What else can I share with you about this idea?” This way you stay on point and only expand on a topic with the content that your listener needs.
Executive presence is within your reach. I’ve seen many executives develop their presence with a little personal reflection, practice and coaching.
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