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“It is executive presence—and 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.”

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success

Executive PresenceExecutive presence can be defined by the sum of three contributing attributes:

  1. Physical: This includes a polished, refined physical appearance, but also how you present yourself. How do you carry yourself when you walk into a room? People look for things like a straight posture and a smile on your face to signal that you are confident, in control and approachable.
  2. Functional: Your intelligence and expertise in the technical skills of your function contribute to your executive presence. The functional attribute of executive presence also includes your professionalism in your work, how you organize and hold yourself accountable. It’s taking pride in your work. At the highest level, your expertise is sought out as a trustworthy, unique source of advice and insight.
  3. Influential: Everyone agrees that the way you communicate with others contributes to your executive presence. The ability to speak up and communicate with confidence and clarity is just the beginning. Influence also includes the “wow factor” ability to engage and empower others to action with your love and passion for what you do. It includes empathy, authenticity, and the ability to actively listen to others.

An executive presence helps you reach your full leadership potential. Whether you are just beginning your career or you are at the senior level, you should be continually working toward developing and refining your presence. Not all advances are about skill. Not all sales are closed based on product stats. Your presence elicits far more response than technical attributes.

Note that not all leaders are strong in every area. Some are very refined in their presence, and highly intelligent, but are not influential in their communication. Those that are at the very highest levels of executive presence did not get there without putting significant thought and effort toward achieving it. People are not simply born with a natural executive presence – they have to achieve it.

There is a debate around this – the extent to which a person can develop an executive presence versus having a natural affinity to it. What do you think – can executive presence be learned?

photo credit: 1976 Volvo 264 TE via photopin (license)