Executive Presence: 5 Foundation Building Tips

Executive presence is a sought-after, sometimes elusive leadership behavior. While we cannot easily describe it, we typically sense when someone has a presence that commands favorable attention and recognize when it is absent.

The person with executive presence exudes self-confidence that is not arrogant and off-putting but instead signals influence while creating space for others to engage. Interestingly enough, the person may not hold the title that indicates a position of organizational leadership, yet they project executive presence.

What is Executive Presence?

In the book, Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, author Sylvia Ann Hewlett says –

 “— no man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant following without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us we’re in the presence of someone who’s the real deal. It’s an amalgam of qualities that telegraphs that you are in charge or deserve to be.”

Executive presence is a skill to cultivate.

Executive Presence Development Tips

Consider the following to develop your executive presence:

Tip 1: Become strategically self-aware.

Know your values, strengths, weaknesses,  and aspirations (internal) and how others perceive their interpersonal interactions with you (external). Then, use this awareness intel to proactively self-manage.  

Play to your strengths and think ahead about how to mitigate weaknesses. Any overplayed strength can become an albatross — working against rather than for you.

Tip 2: Maintain your composure.

With heightened self-awareness, know your emotional triggers.

Control your emotions, recognize the feelings present in others, and maintain composure throughout interpersonal interactions – especially in challenging, stress-prone situations.

Tip 3: Exude credibility in how you communicate.

You hold credentials, have a proven track record, and “what” you share is trustworthy.

Giving equal attention to “how” you communicate is essential, as this could diminish the message and your credibility. Consider the following:

✅ Project appropriately – use a clear, firm tone of voice.

✅ Give the person(s) in your presence the attention you would to the individual with the highest level of authority in the organization.

✅ Be concise so resist over-explaining.

✅ Eliminate filler words, such as “right,” “uh,” “like,” and “you know.”

✅ Avoid self-minimizing behaviors, such as asking a question to share an idea rather than making and owning a statement.

Tip 4: Be curious.

Ask open-ended questions to create space for others to tell their stories. Then, listen intently, focusing on understanding the message and others’ viewpoints.

Tip 5: Demonstrate systems thinking.

Understanding the business from end-to-end (its inputs, processes, and outputs) builds your executive presence. This fuels executive presence when you demonstrate knowledge of your business function, the organization’s functional relationships, the interrelatedness, and how these functions work together to achieve business goals. How you lead reflects an overall knowledge of the business and your group’s fit into the bigger picture.

What is Your One?

Self-development is a journey of continued growth.

What one action will you take to strengthen your executive presence?

Contact me for a quick start conversation.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.