Executive Presence – the WHAT and HOW

The first time I heard the phrase “Executive Presence” many years ago I dismissed it thinking that it did not apply to me given that I was a team leader and not an Executive at work.

Then over the following couple of years I encountered the phrase a number of times. My manager and a number of key stakeholders I worked with commented that my work was exemplary and that I needed to “raise my profile” so as to “become more visible”. I wanted to run for the hills when I heard this.

All I could think of was why would I want to become more visible. Who wants to be in the spotlight? I was comfortable with where I was and did not want to attract undue attention to myself like those smug colleagues who suck up to the boss. I believed that my outstanding work should speak for me.   I thought that I would be promoted and given more opportunities based on my results.

Then I got passed over for a promotion – I was mad! I was livid!

My boss explained that many of the leaders did not know who I was and could not put a face to my name when my nomination came up for discussion. Not one senior leader was able to back my manager’s nomination. Why? Turns out it was because I was not “visible” and that the solution was for me to “raise my profile”. Those words again!

I was fired up. I needed to know what this “raising your profile” was all about and how I can get it quickly. I learnt that what I needed was Executive Presence, so I dug in and did my homework.

Here is what I discovered and share with others.

In plain and simple language, Executive Presence is about exhibiting mastery in 3 key areas:

  1. Gravitas or Presence – how you present yourself, including your posture and gestures. Gravitas is born of confidence and confidence is born of achievement. So remind yourself of what you’ve already achieved in the past that gives you the right to be where you are right now. This exercise will amplify your self-worth and help you present yourself with confidence. To have Presence you must believe in yourself so others can be drawn to believe in you too. Learn to be present in the moment so you can have the mental flexibility to handle the unexpected question or comment with confidence.
  1. Appearance – how you dress and the impression you make on others is important so don’t fight me on this one. Decide what “dress style” you want to own and make that your signature look. Remember to observe those around you and pick up clues as to the culture of the workplace you are in so you can match it, but with an infusion of your own personality. Also, it pays to dress for who you want to become, the role you’re seeking, and not the role you currently have.
  1. Communication – how you get your message across, including vocal command, persuasion and influence. Speak up and make sure you get heard. Listen to the buzzwords at work and make sure you understand them and can use them. Master how to speak with intent and practice authentic listening. Listen to podcasts in your field and master the appropriate communication style. Most important of all is to have conversations with a variety of people, listen, observe and learn.

Mastery of these 3 areas will enable you to be more memorable (raise your profile) and therefore stand out from the crowd (be visible). You will be seen as “leadership material” and given opportunities that are only available to a select few.

By proactively managing your presence you will be able to direct others’ perception of you and your potential. Ultimately this will increase your chances of landing promotions and key assignments.

Over to you…

As always, let me know if you need help with your Executive Presence. Contact me at nancy@thriveatwork.com.au

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