Last month, Forbes released its annual list of the top 100 most powerful women in the world. The women in this outstanding group all come from diverse backgrounds and professions: the picks range from politicians, to entrepreneurs, to philanthropists, to celebrities and more. But beyond all of their distinctions, what do these women have in common? One quality they all share: an Executive Presence that has brought them to the success that they experience today.
Here are a few signs of Executive Presence apparent in all of the top 100 most powerful women of the year.
A clear mission and vision
Forbes dubs these women “change-makers” who are “transforming the world in fresh and exhilarating ways.” In order to make change on a massive scale, one first needs a clear mission and vision, as well as a strategic set of objectives, to bring it in to action – and then the ability to demonstrate this vision to others.
This is one of many elements that contribute to Executive Presence. Effectively projecting vision is a component of Gravitas, which, according to the study published by the Center for Talent Innovation, is the core characteristic and the most important pillar of Executive Presence.
Grace under fire
Another key quality of Gravitas is grace under fire, or the ability to remain calm and focused under intense pressure. These top 100 women all face intense pressure of some form during their careers. A “change-maker,” as Forbes names these individuals, often must face disagreement or even fierce disapproval if she is working against a status quo.
In addition to this, there is a vast range of pressure that these powerful women and successful women everywhere face, including the pressure to perform well in front of many people, the pressure to make the right decisions, the pressure to bring in profit, and generally the pressure to succeed.
Take the number 1 woman on this list, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. To “carry the fate of the euro on her shoulders,” as Forbes indicates, and to be a decisive member of the European Union, is no small feat. Ms. Merkel faces intense opposition in light of her support. Yet with her ability to lead a country and navigate a continent’s economic trials with grace and skill, she has topped the list for the past seven years.
No one would know who these women are, and their work would not have the same level of impact that it does today, if they could not communicate effectively with their publics.
For an example, look at the number 3 woman on this list, Melinda Gates. As the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with her husband she leads a foundation that commits millions of dollars annually to pressing education and health challenges in the United States and globally. In addition to this financial commitment, though, what makes her work truly effective is her ability to be a leading voice in these global causes. With a strong and articulate voice, she brings attention to these issues and engages the public as she addresses them.
Communication, another pillar of Executive Presence, is an indispensible part of success. Without the ability to articulate both their visions and their work, these women would not be among the top 100 most powerful in the world.
This list shows the extraordinary range of talent, achievements and ideas that powerful women are presenting to the world. While they are unique global leaders, the qualities that these women share can and should be adopted by ordinary women in the workplace, too – because the Executive Presence that they demonstrate is a universal recipe for success.