'Executive presence' is the latest buzzphrase out of the US. It is the perception of your leadership capability, which itself is judged on a whole spectrum of verbal and visual factors. If you want a career promotion or to win over a stony-faced interview panel, you need to ensure your executive presence is felt at full throttle. It may take some time to master, but once you've perfected it, you’ll have your bosses and board directors eating out of your hand.
What is it?
Executive presence is just as important to your professional success as your academic and practical background. It’s what gives some people the ability to command the room, project confidence and gravitas, and communicate effectively with a wide range of audiences. Colleagues may call it magnetism or charisma, but latest research into neuroscience and psychology shows there is a lot more to it than that.
Recent research by the Center for Talent Innovation in New York defines executive presence as: 'An amalgam of qualities that true leaders exude, culminating in an aura that telegraphs you’re in charge—or deserve to be. Without it even the most experienced and qualified people can lack followers, advocates, or sponsors—and thus be held back from achieving and contributing their full potential. In short, to be anointed as a leader, you first have to be perceived as one and that perception, however, requires a degree of conscious crafting.'
Why do I need it?
According to research, executive presence begins with the traditional ‘first impression’ when judgments are formed based on a ‘thin slice’ of information. Our ability to form such judgment is embedded in our adaptive unconscious in a brain sector that operates on a very primal level. Once formed this judgment is very hard to change.
How do I get it?
Some people are fortunate enough to have a natural executive presence but for the majority of us it is something that has to be learned and honed. The report says of the three core pillars of executive presence - gravitas, communication and appearance - that gravitas accounts for 67%, communication 28% and appearance 5%. Within each ‘core’ there are also several subsections or ‘facets.’
There are five main facets to your core executive presence and some of us may be good at one or two, but fail miserably at three, four and five. With a combination of coaching and at times, uneasy analysis of your own internal issues, you can be taught how to present all five facets at their very best.
Facet 1: Visual
The ‘surfaces’ you use to express yourself to others including eye contact, clothing and personal grooming.
Facet 2: Verbal
Your speech pattern, tone, speed and ability to communicate effectively.
Facet 3: Kinesthetic
Your body language and energy. Are you confident? Are you comfortable in your own skin? Do you project a positive energy?
Facet 4: Sociability
The importance of good manners, meeting others’ expectations and being sociable.
Facet 5: Positioning
Your charisma, whether you are well-liked, able to engage with others, do people remember you and react positively?
Understanding how people perceive you is vital. Making an impact on others isn’t a choice, it’s inevitable and how you do this will affect whether you are seen as potential management or leadership material or not, or whether you succeed in that job interview.
Where do I start?
As a basic starting point, if you’re unsure how you come across to colleagues, clients or bosses, speak to trusted friends who can give you some real, honest feedback and you may be surprised by what they say.
Video is another frightening but very powerful tool as it will show you exactly how others see you when you make that speech, give a presentation or attend that interview.
If you don’t like what you see, or you can immediately see ways to improve yourself then it suggests your executive presence could be holding you back and probably needs some serious attention.
Coni Masicave is a London-based executive presence coach to CEOs, managing directors and board-level executives at Fortune 100 and FTSE 100 companies including GE, BP and Shell.
Image: business team @ BigStockPhoto