Leadership Qualities and Executive Presence

Executive presence encompasses all of the most desirable leadership qualities.

In her groundbreaking bestseller Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success Sylvia Ann Hewlett said, “No man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant following without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us that we’re in the presence of someone who’s going places….”  

Executive presence: what is it?

executive presenceExecutive presence is a message that says, “I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m confident in my abilities. You can trust me. You can follow my leadership.”

And unlike some other leadership qualities, it makes your significance obvious. It allows you to use your significance to take authority over a situation. It’s actionable. It’s inspiring.

In his book, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO Harrison Monarth said, “Only by taking yourself out of the equation can you assess accurately what is important to the other person, which is the key to harnessing the power of reading people.”

Having executive presence is about being a go-to person who knows how to delegate. It doesn’t relegate subordinates to a lower status. It delegates duties so that your subordinates can grow and the whole team can benefit.

Executive presence shows up in how you do whatever you do. It overlays all of your other teambuilding skills. It shapes what you communicate and how you communicate it. And it directs your actions when collaborating with others.

It looks at the steep climb to corporate success and moves forward confidently. Executive presence doesn’t grow weak or dizzy from the rarified air at the top. It doesn’t wait for opportunity to knock. Executive presence creates opportunities and then opens doors.

Executive presence and you

You probably know it when you see it. Some people just seem to be born with it. How about you? Do you have it? Do you want it? You don’t have to be born with it, but you need self-awareness to cultivate it.

You may be a beginner or a rising star. Becoming the best at your job is an important stepping stone, but it doesn’t have to be your end game. If you want more, you can groom yourself professionally get where you want to go.

Who are you and now? Who do you want to be? The first step is raw honesty. There’s one good thing about raw honesty. No matter how raw you get with yourself, each wound has the potential to heal. And the result may be a new and better you. You can become the change you want to see.

Adjust your internal messages [the things you say about yourself to yourself] to convey the right external message. Identify the corporate culture you’re in and conduct yourself in such a way that you add value to it.

Cultivating leadership qualities

Executive presence is exhibited in how you look. Do you make direct eye contact? Remember that if look for the best in the other person it’ll be easier to look them in the eye. And remember this as well: the inability to look another in the eye could mean you’re hiding from something inside yourself.

Executive presence is also among those leadership qualities that reveals itself in how you speak. What you say and how you feel about what you communicate will determine how you speak. If you believe in your message, that conviction will come out in your voice.

It also showcases itself in how you carry yourself. If it’s difficult to look someone in the eye, it’s probably hard to look at yourself in the mirror. You can actually change your body image by changing the way you own your body.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement, but this is not a what-not-to-wear fashion tip. This is the naked truth about self-acceptance. Practice accepting yourself where you are as you are. Change those negative internal messages into positive affirmations. This will make you carry yourself differently–confidently and unapologetically.

Authentic leadership qualities matter

You may already be at the top. Congratulations. But does that mean you have authentic executive presence? If it’s just window dressing for impressing, it’s hollow.

Your EP-quotient should speak volumes about who you really are as a leader. It will also reveal your attitude toward your followers. If it’s not an earnest message about you and what you believe, it’s empty. Noise. It takes courage to look into the mirror and be honest about what you see, but it’s always worth it.

Check your EP-quotient:

  • Communication–do you listen as intensely as you speak?
  • Empathy–do you connect with your colleagues [particularly your subordinates] on both a personal and professional level?
  • Integrity–do you adhere to moral and ethical principles on a consistent basis?
  • Adaptability–do you have the emotional fortitude to change course when necessary?

Leadership qualities like executive presence are the currency of influence and power. Used wisely, there is a beneficial payoff for both leader and follower.