Have you ever thought about what distinguishes individuals who reach top management levels in the business hierarchy from their competition? Naturally, it requires intelligence, diligence, determination and in most cases more than a little good fortune. However, there is also another top quality that performs a major part. It’s known as executive presence.
This article by Steve Tobak published on CBS News suggests that executive presence is an intangible attribute. Here’s how he describes it:
Executive presence is sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you can somehow manage to “come across” as someone with something on the ball — confidence, credibility, a compelling vision or story — then folks will follow you, join you, even invest in your future.
Steve explains that one of the reasons he was promoted to the CEO position of his firm was because he had what he calls “CEO presence.” The one way you can build CEO executive presence is to observe other CEOs and business leaders and absorb as much as you can from them – how they communicate, their body language, how they work a room and more.
Here are three key executive presence traits you might want to focus on:
Look the part
Since we can’t all be the perfect demographic of whatever it is that people envision in a leader, you need to learn to look and dress the part. For example, tall men do better in their careers and I happen to be short. But I stay fit and learned early on how how to dress and look strong, confident and professional: dark, conservative, well-tailored suits and bright white shirts — that sort of thing. Straight out of Dress For Success. And you know what? It really does work.
Sound the part
Long ago, I worked for a CEO who was about 10 years my senior. I remember sitting in a press interview with him, just like it was yesterday. He was leaning back in his chair looking very relaxed and confident with one hand clasped on the other resting on top of his head. He exuded credibility as he described his vision for the company. A body language expert might say that pose was arrogant, but it worked; we ended up with a great article that made a difference.
Moreover, communicating like an executive or a leader essentially comes down to connecting and relating, from sharing your passion in a way that’s meaningful to others. It breaks down barriers and gets people behind you. That’s the sort of thing you need to learn to cultivate.
Write the part
I once had an opportunity to build a worldwide sales force and negotiate some very exciting deals. My CEO took me under his wing and one of the things he taught me was how to write strong, assertive, business emails and negotiate complex contracts with much larger companies with far bigger legal teams. I’ll never forget him telling me never to apologize unless it’s absolutely deserved; it’s a sign of weakness. In other words, skip the whole, “Sorry it took me so long to get back to you” thing.
And you know how everybody closes proposals with something like, “We’d like to thank you for the opportunity to do business with you and look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.” Well, you can replace all that with something like, “I look forward to working with you. Please contact me with any questions.” The latter assumes a positive outcome and is far more direct. Big difference.
Recognize that not everyone is born with executive presence. Executive presence is a learned art, one that is a must if you want to climb up the corporate ladder. Successful executives understand the importance of creating a good and lasting impression.
Try our simple self-assessment tool to gauge your executive presence and immediately receive your downloadable personal report today!