Executive Presence

I was recently running a group talk on Executive Presence.  It was being held over Zoom and as I was mid-sentence, my computer shut off and I was bumped from the session.  

I hastily plugged in another laptop, hit the link and rejoined the meeting, reminding me that the first rule of Executive Presence is to be in the room!

In all seriousness, that’s what Executive Presence is all about – commanding space and respect.

I always ask clients, “What is Executive Presence?” Some answers:

“Perceived wisdom”

“Someone who looks like they’re in charge”



“Someone who has gravitas”

“Someone who belongs in the role”

“Someone who has Executive Presence makes you lean in to listen to them”

In order to augment your Executive Presence, consider the following,

  1. Know what it is you stand for and what you want the world to see.

What five words would you use to define the “you” you want your colleagues to see? 

  • Are you intelligent, creative, honest, brave and a subject-matter-expert?  
  • Or, are you a visionary, charismatic, risk-taking, market leading innovator?

What we think of ourselves shows in the way we hold our bodies.  It’s not just about having good posture, a shoulders back, head up high, stride into the room posture and stance, it’s about being comfortable standing in the limelight and saying to the people around you, “I am this…”

You can exude confidence before you feel it by mimicking the indicators:  strong eye contact, firm voice, standing tall in your boots.  And when your confidence increases to match your outward appearance, others can feel it, too. It pulls people in. People are drawn to power.

  • You must engage.  You don’t have to say a lot, but you do have to say something.  At work, it is your responsibility to offer an opinion and to engage.  It is possible to have an amazing presence without saying a word, but that is not the best strategy for a business career. Executive Presence is a combination of physical attributes plus wisdom, experience and added value. What you say should matter.

In order to make that so, when you speak, make sure you address the people in the room and articulate the relevance to them, specifically.  Keep your remarks crisp and on point. There’s something commanding about being able to sum up a complex situation in a few powerful words.

  • Your silence is important, too.  Deliberation is a component of gravitas – the word means weight. It adds formality. A well-placed pause will make people linger on the last thing you said, and the moment will invite them to react, interject, converse.  You must create moments of quiet in order to listen and learn to those around you.
  • You can acquire confidence, poise, and the ability to deliver crisp commentary even if you don’t have these skills now.  You rehearse to converse.  Try using a louder voice than usual when you practice a presentation. Film yourself talking or giving a little speech, then watch and learn about your own body language. When delivering a message, halve the words and articulate the impact of your message, not the contextual details.
  • You must be YOU.  The way in which I exude presence will be different than the way that you do.  The French have an expression “etre bien dans sa peau” which means to be comfortable in one’s own skin.  No one else can inhabit all the intricacies and elements that make you who you are.
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