Executive Presence: The Intentional Leader

Executive-Presence-IntentionsExecutive presence is built on a foundation of core values and your ability to express your most worthy intentions in everything you do.

All the work you can do on your communication skills and appearances won’t make you a great leader.

As author Kristi Hedges writes:

“Executive presence begins in your head. It resides in how you think about yourself, your abilities, your environment, and your potential.” ~ Kristi Hedges, The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, Amacom, 2012

Executive presence has nothing to do with becoming someone you’re not. It’s about being more of who you already are. Intentions drive and create your executive presence. All the polish and coaching in the world won’t make up for your thought patterns, your habits, your assumptions and your actions. Read More »

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Top 8 Communication Blunders that Destroy Executive Presence

Executive-PresenceAccording to Sylvia Ann Hewlett from CTI (Center for Talent Innovation) in Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, there are several communication blunders that can destroy your executive presence  when you speak:

  1. Signs of nervousness, such as breathlessness, sweating, trembling or stammering
  2. Constantly checking your phone for latest messages
  3. Signs of boredom, foot-tapping, doodling
  4. Being long-winded, rambling and repetitive instead of getting to the point
  5. Relying too heavily on notes or other props
  6. Signs of strong emotions such as crying, anger, frustrations, etc.
  7. Lack of eye contact
  8. High-pitched or shrill voice

How can you tell you’ve wandered into one of these communication traps? Read More »

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Top 6 Leadership Communication Skills for Executive Presence

Leadership-Communication   Sylvia Ann Hewlett from CTI (Center for Talent Innovation) writes in Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success that surveys of senior leaders report these top six communication traits are key for leaders:

  1. Superior speaking skills: for men 63%, women 60%
  2. Ability to command a room: for men, 54%, women 49%
  3. Forcefulness and assertiveness: for men 48%, for women 48%
  4. Ability to read a client/a boss/a room: men, 33%, women 39%
  5. Sense of humor and ability to banter: men 35%, women 33%
  6. Body language/posture: man 25%, women 21%

In other words, out of all the traits that confer executive presence, superior speaking skills mark you as a leader. All six of these behaviors contribute to how powerfully you connect with an audience, how quickly you engage with listeners, and how well you can keep their attention. Read More »

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Gravitas is the Key Factor in Executive Presence

Lonely Businessman Facing Financial DepressionWhat do you think is the single most defining characteristic of executive presence?

In the Center for Talent Innovation survey of senior leaders, 67% say that gravitas is the most important defining element of executive presence. According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success there are three factors that create presence in a leader:

  1. How you act as a leader: gravitas
  2. How you speak: communication skills
  3. How you look: appearances

But what exactly is gravitas?  An online dictionary says it’s substance, weightiness, a serious or dignified demeanor, formality in bearing and appearances. If you ask me, those descriptions don’t do much to clarify what a leader needs to do to act with gravitas. Sure I get it, but it’s still vague. In Hewlett’s book, gravitas is broken down into six aspects, based on survey responses from senior leaders:

  1. Confidence and “grace under fire:” 79%
  2. Decisiveness and “showing teeth:” 70%
  3. Integrity and “speaking truth to power”: 64%
  4. Emotional intelligence: 61%
  5. Reputation and standing/”pedigree”: 56%
  6. Vision/charisma: 50%

Gravitas is the very essence of EP. Without it, you simply won’t be perceived as a leader, no matter what your title or level of authority, no matter how well you dress or speak. Gravitas, according to 62% of the leaders we surveyed, is what signals to the world you’re made of the right stuff and can be entrusted with serious responsibility. ~ Sylvia Ann Hewlett

So how do you acquire more gravitas and how do you express it? How do you improve your presence so that you’re seen as a leader with strong potential?

If you look at the roller coaster economy and business scandals of the last fifteen years, it’s not surprising that we’re drawn to leaders who keep their promises, who are transparent and honest, who keep their cool under fire, and show compassion along with courage when making hard decisions. Even so, there may be more examples of those who failed that come to mind than those who didn’t fail.

For sure, often courage and grace is strengthened in times of crisis. To borrow from Eleanor Roosevelt’s words, like teabags, we don’t know how strong we are until we’re in hot water.

While avoiding catastrophe may demonstrate a leader’s competence, it is handling catastrophe that confers gravitas.

All leaders face serious mistakes. There will be accidents, some out of your control. Mistakes will be made by both you and others you trusted. According to Hewlett:

Each of these represents, however, a monumental opportunity to acquire and exude gravitas: to reach within yourself, at the height of the storm, for that eye of calm, and to speak and act from that place of clarity. Because when you demonstrate that your confidence cannot be shaken, you inspire confidence in others. At worst, you’ll win their forgiveness and forbearance. Very possibly, you’ll win their trust and loyalty.

What do you think about gravitas? Is it something you’ve thought about or worked on as part of your presence? I’d love to hear your thoughts You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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Executive Presence: Got It?

Executive-PresenceI think executive presence is frequently misunderstood. We think of “presence” as a star quality seen in those business leaders who exude confidence and charisma and who shine at conferences and networking events. Most of us think of presence as a fuzzy quality we probably need more of for that next promotion, but aren’t quite sure how to develop it.

I think it’s much more crucial than that. Executive presence has nothing to do with becoming someone you’re not, rather, it’s about being more of who you already are.

According to author Kristi Hedges in The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, presence has become one of the key success factors for professionals today. Organizations are bringing in coaches to help cultivate it. It is showing up in performance reviews and people are getting hired, fired and promoted based on it. Read More »

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Leadership Stories: How Personal Should You Be?

Leadership-StoriesJust how personal should you be when you craft a leadership story designed to persuade people? I guess it depends on your audience… or does it?

I’ve known keynote speakers who use stories of a parent’s death or illness to make a dramatic point and get their audience emotionally engaged. Sometimes it comes across as sappy and manipulative. However, done well, it can be both touching and effective.

Yet, beware. This approach to storytelling with emotional impact has become formulaic. It can backfire. Read More »

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Leadership Presence: Use Stories to Connect Head and Heart

Leadership-Presence-Tortoise-HareIf you want to build strong leadership presence, pay attention to the stories you share.

Have you ever noticed what happens in a conference room full of people when the speaker starts telling stories? People sit up and lean in toward the speaker. They put down their smart phones, stop texting and start to pay attention. It’s not just in conference rooms either. The minute your boss tells you a personal story, you listen intensely because stories give you a glimpse into people’s true passions.

As a speaker, telling stories can help you naturally express yourself in a manner that’s powerfully congruent. You don’t need to be a particularly accomplished or trained speaker to come across as genuine and interesting. When you tell a personal story, your voice, body and emotions line up naturally to create authenticity.

Stories help you express emotion in two ways:

  1. They give you permission to take on roles, speak in the voices of others. Heightened expression is almost expected when you tell a good story.
  2. Stories generate emotional responses from your audience. Read More »
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Leadership Presence: 3 Ways to Be More Expressive

Leadership-Expressiveness

I’ve been reading a lot about executive presence lately and, in particular, I am intrigued about how leaders express themselves in presentations and speeches, as well as in everyday conversations.

In today’s business environment, we expect clarity and congruency from leaders. They need to be comfortable expressing their emotions and any discrepancy between message and expression shows up and distracts from building leadership trust.

It seems to me that some people have a natural talent for “sounding” and “looking” like credible leaders. And there are several experts who would have us believe that presence is something all leaders can acquire through practice and coaching. Read More »

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Leadership Presence: Make an Emotional Impact

Leadership-Pesence-ImpactIf you’re thinking about how you can improve your leadership presence (including how well you’re perceived as a candidate for promotion), pay attention to your next presentation. You may need more than a good speech. You’ll need to make an emotional impact through voice and body language.

It’s nothing new: the most important factor in determining the impact of a leader’s message is body language and whether he/she looks confident, grounded and sure of themselves. Next is whether the leader’s tone of voice radiates clarity, energy and passion. The least important determinant of the impact of communication are the actual words spoken.

We know this. And yet, when it comes to making a presentation, most of us spend 99% of our time and effort crafting the words and only 1% on how we’re going to say them. Read More »

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Leadership Quest: How to Become an Inspirational Leader

Inspirational-Leadership

If you could have any quality you want in your job as a manager or leader, what would that be? How about becoming an inspirational leader?

I ask this question of my coaching clients. Many have specific “wants” like be a better motivator, or achieve better numbers next quarter, or get that next promotion. or have more “executive presence.” But one in particular floats to the forefront: “I want to be a more inspirational leader.”

As we drill down to define what that means, I hear words like “motivation,” “influence,” “collaboration,” and “cooperation.” Most agree they want to go beyond just getting others to do what needs to be done. The people I work with in coaching sessions want their people to be inspired do the work to get results in which ever way is best, using their own talents and wisdom.  They want to give people autonomy to do the work that needs to be done with energy and passion. Read More »

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