Rita Perea is President of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.
Most of us have had the experience of being with or in front of a director, manager or senior leader who had a powerful presence. Maybe we left the meeting saying, “I want to be like him/her someday!” Executive Presence, or EP, is also known as charisma, the “it” factor and the confidence code. In a survey of Chief Information Officers conducted by Gartner, E.P. was second on the list of the top 20 leadership traits that make a difference in people’s career trajectories. That same group ranked technology skills as 12th on the list.
What is the “it” in the “It” factor and how do you get more of “it” to increase your executive presence?
Executive presence is not about being ego-based or the most outspoken or gregarious person in the room. It is, however, all about making a genuine connection with others, one-on- one or when addressing a group. EP is also about operating from a place of deep awareness and presence- your true north- with conviction and caring. Certain qualities, traits and skills demonstrate that a leader has executive presence.
My newest book, The New Executive Presence- Leading with Consciousness and Awareness, explores how you can enhance your executive presence by focusing on the following traits:
- Composure - Emotional intelligence, self-awareness and understanding others, is important when we discuss executive presence. The ability to recognize emotion in other people, and control your own emotion in response to them is key. Keeping your composure in difficult or challenging situations is learning to manage your responses.
- Communicating with confidence- To show executive presence it is important to communicate confidently both what you say and how you say it. First you must look the part so begin by choosing your wardrobe carefully and dress for success. Next practice standing tall with good posture, making eye contact with different people in the audience by using the “one thought, one person” technique, and being sure that your facial expressions match your message. Last but not least, pay attention to your voice and be sure the volume, pitch and pace are appropriate for your message. When you are practiced, polished, look and feel your best, you exude confidence. People want to hear what you have to say.
- Connection- People who embody executive presence have the ability to draw others towards them and make a genuine connection. The ability to be present, focused, not distracted and actively listening to another person lets them know that they matter to you. This connection, in turn, motivates and engages others.
- Conciseness and clarity- We have all been around people who ramble on and on when they are asking a question or making a point. We intuitively know that being verbose kills executive presence. To command attention and demonstrate EP , ask yourself “what is my message in 10 words or less?” If you can’t articulate it briefly and with clarity to yourself, others will lose the meaning as well.
- Credibility- The content of your message is critical, but even more fundamental is your choice of words to deliver the message. Useless words such as “um”, “so”, “sort of”, “you know”, “you guys” immediate hinder your credibility with the listener and detract from your powerful presence. Putting yourself down in front of others or mentioning “this may not be a good idea, but...” will also minimize your message. People take note when someone with strong conviction and credibility delivers a well-prepared and polished message.
With honest personal reflection, practice and a bit of coaching, Executive Presence can be learned and is within your grasp. Make a commitment to yourself to enhance your EP to be more effective and at the top of your game.