Something is going to happen to you by the end of this blog. You will know how to cultivate the traits of the world’s most exceptional leaders for yourself.
You are going to understand:
- What executive presence is
- Why you need it
- What it can do for you and your career (and your life, really)
- What you need to do to level up
Read this through and we promise you that by the time you’re done, you’ll understand what the majority of executives are missing. You’ll know where the subtle disconnects are between leaders and their teams that lead to poor performance. Better yet, you’ll know what to do about it to become a respected and exceptional leader.
But first things first…
What is Executive Presence?
Leadership is really just influence. Show us a good leader and we’ll show you someone that is good at influencing. With that hanging on the hook of your mind, here are some of the definitions of executive presence you’ll come across while reading broadly on the subject.
Executive presence definitions have included:
- A highly valued ability to lead a group verbally and nonverbally
- The charisma to inspire others to have confidence in you and themselves—and motivate them to take meaningful action
- Being authentic, vulnerable, strong-willed, supportive, strategic, fair, and compassionate
- An aura of authority, self-assuredness, and confidence that separates senior-level individuals from entry-level ones.
- Also called Gravitas, the Roman language word meaning “Dignified and serious conduct.”
- A manner of speaking and conduct that “commands the room” and grabs attention.
All great summaries, but we like our explanation of executive presence the best:
You’ve heard of someone making the executive decision. It was the decision that was carried out, even if there were other opinions or decisions on the table.
Rarely is there ever just one force at work in a room. There are multiple ideas, opinions, and perspectives. But even in the friendliest of meetings, one decision, one force, is finalized, and this is the executive force—the force that had an effect.
So you’re trying to present yourself, carry yourself, and manifest a presence that makes things happen around you, whether that’s getting people to follow your lead in action or in thought.
You do this through what you say and how you say it, or verbally and nonverbally.
Executive Presence Examples In Action:
People with solid leadership presence are level-headed. They’re able to stay calm during tense situations and they’re able to help others stay calm as well.
Executive presence doesn’t require an aggressive or authoritarian approach to bully people into following. People will naturally want to follow someone with executive presence. Their confidence in themselves and their ability is magnetic, and yet they still have a humility about them. They can lead without being loud.
When someone with executive presence speaks, you know what they’re saying and you understand how you’re involved. And you probably know the next action you need to take. Their ideas are as clear as photographs.
- Emotional Intelligence
People with high executive presence are very in control of their own emotions and in-tune with the emotions of others. They are compassionate, self-aware, authentic, and intuitive. They know how to assess the emotional states of other people without them knowing they’re being analyzed.
People that know how to flex leadership presence are master storytellers. They know how to tell stories that get people’s emotions involved. By the end of the story, people are ready to take some kind of action.
Why Do I Need Executive Presence?
On the surface, cultivating executive presence or seeking out executive presence coaching seems optional. But it’s practically mandatory in some areas of your life, like the path up the corporate ladder or building your own business.
Today’s companies and investors are looking for leaders that people want to follow.
They’re looking for leaders that can even sway those who aren’t naturally inclined to take directions from authority figures.
When everyone on board trusts their leaders, things get done—like making money and growing the company. So the more likable and followable the leader, the greater the profit and growth will be.
That tier of leadership is consistently found among those who have applied themselves to developing executive presence. So the opportunities available to you could literally be controlled by what you have or have not done for your executive presence game.
But high-level executive presence coaching will not only help a company become the best version of itself. Those who cultivate their executive presence also stand to become the best version of themselves, strictly as people. Yes, you.
As mentioned, executive presence isn’t some rote memorization of words, phrases, and procedures. It involves getting to know what makes you tick. Really getting to know yourself better than you have before.
Everything you’ve got—your intellect, your emotions, your personality, and of course your voice—executive presence uses all of these. Once you know how you work, then you can most effectively use executive presence to lead as best as possible.
And we get it, “know yourself” can sound like some meaningless buzz phrase. But all clichés are based on proven truths of success, happiness, and a fulfilling life. It’s not dumb marketers pushing this narrative, it comes from one of the world’s most respected philosophers: Aristotle.
The Importance of Knowing Yourself
Here’s an example of why this internal knowledge is worth pursuing:
Have you ever bought something and tried to use it without reading the manual?
John Doe bought a top-of-the-line coffee maker and set it up without reading any of the documentation. He thought he did pretty good just feeling it out as he went along.
But only after doing his homework with the manual and watching videos did he find out all the features that were designed to save him time every morning—not to mention make a much tastier coffee.
The better you know the tool, the better the results.
The notion of getting to know yourself is off-putting to many people. That’s why they settle for imitating the stereotype of a good leader. This leads to countless imitations of leadership clichés that have been made fun of in cartoons for decades. Do you want your leadership style to be the Dilbert of a bad joke? Didn’t think so.
The Best Time To Build Executive Presence
You don’t have to wait for a specific job title or specific team to make an impact. If you build your executive presence, you won’t need a badge or a job position in order to lead. People will follow you now. People will be inspired by you now. People will be led by you to the best versions of themselves now.
People aren’t inspired and led by job positions. They’re inspired and led by people that know how to reach their hearts. That could be you, and that could be you now.
The 4 Aspects of Executive Presence
As a human being existing in three-dimensional space, you only have two vehicles of expression: Your voice and your body. Verbal and nonverbal communication.
With those two assets, you have the task of expressing a powerful list of aspects that
#1 The Personal Aspect
The way you speak and act conveys so much more than data. Done correctly, it also tells others what you’re passionate about. It elevates your motivation, drive, and engagement to where it’s both visible and contagious.
You can also communicate your poise, or the fact that you are comfortable in your surroundings and adversity isn’t going to rattle you. High-pressure moments really make this part of you shine and transform you into a base of stability and sanity that others can rely on.
Whether in or out of the frying pan, you can always put across your self-confidence.
Every day is a day to radiate an air of optimism and assurance. This tells others that you’re no slouch. You’ve got the resolve, resources, and strength required to take point and show the way.
Seeing how it’s done will get others started on the path to developing their own executive presence, and they’ll think of you when they reflect on how they got there.
#2 The Communication Aspect
Sometimes you have to focus on getting raw data and information across. Still, that’s a chance to lead. Rarely does information land on one’s desk for the sake of it. It normally implies that action is supposed to be taken once the information is digested.
If you can communicate with enough clarity that people know what they’re supposed to do when you’re done talking, you will be loved for years to come. In speeches and presentations, this is often done best through a storytelling framework. But more on that later.
Throw in the candor so that people can tell that you’re interested in truth and honesty—that you’re willing to deal with things as they are, not as you would prefer them to be.
You’ll get others to really lean in if they can detect that, despite your convictions, you’re still thinking with a good measure of openness. That is that you’re willing to consider other perspectives and points of view without prejudging.
#3 The Relational Aspect
People the world over complain about cruel bosses that make their lives miserable.
Communicating with executive presence sends the exact opposite message without saying it explicitly. What you say and how you say it can convey thoughtfulness, letting others know that you aren’t just interested in what they can do for the company. You’re interested in who they are as individuals and their personal development.
This goes hand in hand with the dimension of warmth. This way, you make sure that you appear to be physically and emotionally accessible to others.
Support all that with plain and simple sincerity, believing what you say and meaning what you say, and you’re the leader people have been waiting for.
“Hold on a second,” you’re thinking. “I’m supposed to be able to get all that across with just my voice and my body language?”
Yes. And it’s more simple than you think.
Take actors, for example. You can surely remember a time when an actor’s role just grabbed hold of you and wouldn’t let go. What emotion. What drama. What power!
But how was it all put across to you?
The actor’s voice, facial expressions, and movements. The persona may have been fictitious, but the emotion expressed was authentic and very real. All good actors have to feel before they can act. Otherwise their audience will feel nothing.
Don’t think so little of the power you can wield through sound and sight. Studies show a major linchpin of your executive leadership and success is your willingness to be authentic.
Which brings us to the final aspect.
#4 The Authenticity Aspect
Thinking about yourself for 30 seconds determines that you are unique and one of a kind. Your life experience, your collection of skills and knowledge, every single puzzle piece that makes up who you are. Nobody can replace you. Nobody can do anything quite like you can.
So why do people opt for generic and cliché leadership styles?
There have been lots of comic strips and TV shows that mock executive leadership in general. What’s interesting is that every executive leader is a unique person just like you or I. But the persona being mocked seems to be ubiquitous.
They gross lots of money, so you know these are ringing true with people.
But why is it ringing true?
Part of the reason, surely, is that many leaders don’t know how to lead with what makes them special. What makes them human. They lead with policy and procedure divorced from personality.
The pop culture stereotype of an unthinking, inflexible, insensitive, and ineducable boss is a sad reality. People who’ve based their entire leadership persona on terrible ideas and standards they’ve learned from other bad leaders, TV/movies, etc.
These people act like dictators and rulebooks who don’t think or show feelings.
A leadership style that’s all policy and procedure with no warm personality results in unhappy teams, abysmal results, and the kind of toxic work environment that’s only funny to laugh at on a big screen rather than suffer through in reality.
By bringing authenticity into the leadership game, not only do you provide the human touch that people need, you do it in a way that only you can. If you and a colleague are trained in the exact same way by the same people, you’ll still execute your leadership style differently. And that’s what will make you memorable and followable.
Okay, Great. But How Do You Work On Your Authenticity?
It’s not really something you develop as an isolated skill. Rather, it’s something that develops as you work on everything else. When you communicate, you practice communicating in your own style. i.e. Not how you think you should act, but how you are naturally. Similarly, when you give a presentation, you learn to deliver it with a touch only you have.
The idea is to be authentic at all times. Always being true to who you are and your values.
And trust us, whether you’re fun and quirky or analytical and serious, you will always find more acceptance, success, and happiness being yourself.
By way of contrast, imitating someone else’s manner of speaking or presenting would be the opposite of being authentic. That might be how you get started, the same way new writers will temporarily imitate the “voice” of a writer they admire. But it’s not something you want to do long-term.
At some point, those rigid training wheels will need to come off if you’re going to do you the only way that you can. Bear that in mind as you work through the rest of this blog.
In short, you need executive presence because it is everything all successful and respected leaders have.
Excited to start working on it?
How to Develop Executive Presence
The Role of Your Voice in Executive Presence
We’ve all experienced it at least once. We step into a room where someone is talking and they’re at the center of all the gravity in the room. In a matter of seconds, you know that you need to listen. You might not know why just yet, but you know.
A voice that speaks from a place of authenticity and confidence is this irresistible force. And we’re going to show you how to get on that level.
Our personal lives rarely move at the speed of our professional lives. The time that it takes to sound confident is shorter than the time that it takes to be confident.
This is part of that “training wheels” stage we mentioned.
The Mehrabian Study shows that 38% of an audience believes that your credibility is wrapped up in the quality of your voice—how you sound reaches your audience before what you have to say does. What sort of voice projects the confidence and poise that executive presence calls for?
Well, you likely know what kind of voice doesn’t:
- Rapid speech
- Breathlessness due to shallow breathing
Stage fright or some other form of fear is often the culprit. The good news is that it’s possible to override that fear and sound fearless even if you aren’t.
Controlling your voice comes down to this:
If you can control your breathing, you can control your nerves. And if you can control your nerves, you can control your voice.
It’s not an oversimplification—it’s neuroscience. The brain likes survival. It has a whole bunch of subroutines for dealing with threats.
One problem: It can’t tell the difference between the threat posed by a natural predator and the “threat” posed by speaking in front of a crowd. So it responds to both the same way. Rapid breathing, racing pulse, and a foggy mind. The more there is of any one of these things, the more the others escalate.
You can hack this survival subroutine through breathwork. Especially diaphragmatic breathing. This is a technique that you will come back to frequently in your journey to manifest executive presence.
Diaphragmatic Breathing And How To Do It
Master this technique and there’s no obstacle that you can’t overcome on the road to executive presence.
Your diaphragm is a vital part of your anatomy, but seldom appreciated. It’s the key component to deep, full breaths that let you reduce your anxiety levels as if you were using a control panel to your brain.
Diaphragmatic breathing is the opposite of the shallow chest-level breaths that you take when you’re anxious. You want to fill your lungs from the bottom up, not just the top.
To do this:
- Place your hands on your stomach
- Take in a slow, deep breath
- Do you feel your belly rising? If so, good. That means you’re breathing with your diaphragm
- If not, an alternative is to lie down on the floor. This is a natural way to help your belly rise
- Now, breathe deeply in and out following this rhythm:
- In for a count of 4
- Hold for a count of 4
- Out for a count of 6
- Repeat this a minimum of ten times and as often as necessary to trick your body into lowering the red alert status, restoring control of your voice
This breathing not only calms you down, it’s where you should always breathe to give your voice as much breath support as possible.
With control of your voice back, let’s focus on three important aspects of speaking. The Three P’s: Pace, Pitch, and Power.
Pace is the speed at which you speak.
Rapid speech has its place in a speech or presentation, but it’s a relatively small one. Melody makes music powerful, but the speed at which it shifts is just as important.
So it is when you speak, your pace will add weight and focus where you want it. Rapid speech can be used to summarize less important details, or build drama and intensity. Slowing down for a point tells your listeners that they. Had better. Remember it.
And don’t forget the art of the pause. Leaving a bit of information hanging in the air with a pause helps it sink in. You may have noticed that some speakers sip from their water bottle at moments that help emphasize certain points with a pause.
Just, don’t pause for too long because then it’s like hitting mute in the middle of a song.
Pitch or modulation is what keeps a song from having just one note.
It’s also what prevents speakers from sounding like robots. Simply changing your pitch can alter the meaning of words.
- A rising pitch can transform a statement into a question
- A high pitch can create tension and excitement
- A low pitch can say Now listen here, this is serious.
This ability to convey meaning past mere words with the way the words sound will add finesse to your executive presence.
The power of your voice is your volume.
Executive Presence calls for a mix of raising and lowering your voice. Loudness can add emphasis and urgency. But a steady stream of speech at high volume is exhausting. It won’t be long before listeners only hear how loud you are and miss your words altogether.
Used tastefully, a lower volume can be just as compelling as being loud. Imagine a CEO speaking the following during a board meeting at a low volume:
A high volume might convey his anger, but spoken softly and seriously, the same words chill your skin with the seriousness of the matter.
If you have a favorite speech, listen to it with a critical ear and see if you can discern how the speaker uses Pace, Pitch, and Power to transform their words into the experience that hooked you. Likewise, if you hear a speech that doesn’t quite do it for you, we promise you that at least one of the three P’s has been neglected.
A good executive presence training coach can analyze your own use of these three critical tools and show you how to wield them with clinical precision and artful flair.
The Magic (And Importance) Of Storytelling
A lot of information passes through the eyes and ears of people every day. What determines the bits that they remember the longest? It’s usually something that made them experience an intense emotion.
And there is no greater vehicle of emotions than storytelling.
If you doubt this, just Google the revenue generated by movies, books, and theater performances—they’re all forms of storytelling.
People keep coming back for more. Many brands have caught on to this, and seek out business storytelling training to elevate how their customers perceive them.
And yes, not every speaking opportunity has room for drama and thrills. But storytelling is still useful even if you’re presenting more “dry” subject matter it provides a context and brings the information to life.
Nobody ever remembers an individual jigsaw puzzle piece for long. But they might remember the complete picture for years.
Storytelling provides that big picture that shows where dry data and facts fit—and why the audience should care. When the why’s are filled in, it’s easier for the audience to feel the kind of feelings that move them to action. All of this has a scientific basis.
A well-told story or narrative stimulates the release of dopamine in the listener. This is one of the brain’s feel-good chemicals and it contributes to the retention of information. The brain likes to remember what made it feel good.
Also found in the brain are mirror neurons. These neurons are the reason that we mimic the feeling of emotions we’re presented with. Stories cause us to empathize with the people involved in them. What they feel, the listeners feel. They become invested in the outcome.
Audience Analysis For Unforgettable Stories
A story that does well with one audience may not go over as well with another. That’s because the story isn’t the only important factor. There’s your audience to consider.
So in order to keep an otherwise good story from going flat, it’s necessary to do a little audience analysis. This will increase the likelihood of your story amplifying—not undermining—your executive presence.
Take a moment to ponder the following:
- What kind of people will hear this story?
- What are their daily concerns?
- What keeps them awake at night?
- What kind of information would help them feel better about what they do every day?
- What biases could they have?
- What could they have strong feelings about?
Being mindful of those points will steer you in the right direction.
What Kind of Story Are You Trying to Tell?
The best stories are planned. A rambling narrative of people and events does not an effective story make. You need to determine in advance what sort of story your audience is going to get.
A Story of You
A story about yourself can be powerful. It could highlight an obstacle you had to overcome, a challenge you faced, or a relevant experience. Beware of coming across as egocentric though, humility and authenticity is key to getting the audience on your side.
A Story of Your Audience
This could be a story about your team, department, or company and what you’ve been through together, or a shared experience that the larger portion of the audience may not have heard about.
A Story of a Person
This is usually the format that fuels case studies. Your business or service and expertise may be quite grand, but it means so much more when told in the context of someone that has benefited from it.
A Story About an Idea
Everything starts with an idea or a vision, and the neverending task is getting others to see it and feel as strongly about it as you do. This is how sales are made, companies are formed, and funding is secured for projects.
It’s also the most abstract of the listed stories. The last three formats centered around people, which are tangible and familiar.
Ideas are things that will never be seen and touched and held the same way people can be. Articulating an idea through a story helps make it real in your audience’s minds and is one of the highest forms of executive presence.
The Structure of a Good Story
For all the countless stories clogging your local library, they all follow the same basic structure. Beginning, Middle, and End, or Climax.
Here’s where you want to set the stage. Characters and situations are introduced. One of the finest aspects of telling the beginning is not lingering there too long. You don’t need to include a character’s autobiography before getting into the action. Set it up and move the roller coaster along.
Here’s where things get interesting—and complicated. Tensions mount, complexities increase, and the pressure is on. This is usually where you spend most of your time, as the action and the drama of the middle keeps the story moving.
This is where the tension relents and everyone experiences the big payoff—regardless of whether it’s a happy or sad ending. People just like resolution.
Don’t drag the climax out too long or the feeling of relief won’t work. This is a good place to insert lessons learned, if any.
Regardless of the kind of story you end up telling, be sure to build a bridge between the story and your call to action.
The Role of Nonverbal Communication in Executive Presence
How does a flat, expressionless voice sound? Robotic.
But how does a flat, expressionless face look? Even if the voice is perfect? Also robotic, and extremely creepy if it’s laughing without smiling.
A powerful voice is not your only tool. As many a mime has demonstrated, there is a wealth of communication in body language—communication through facial expressions and overall body movement.
The science of body language has filled countless books (over 60,000 last time we checked). So we’ll spare you the search and only touch on the prime cuts that relate to executive presence.
Remember how The Mehrabian Study said that how you sound hits the audience sooner than what you say? Well, the same study revealed that 55% of the people in an audience appraise your credibility based on how you move.
So just like in physics, sight travels faster than sound. This is how executive presence looks:
A big part of executive presence is raw power.
Some postures are associated with power, and some are associated with weakness. A speaker that looks like they’re hunched over and trying to be small is obeying the survival instinct of trying to hide and protect their body.
This is no bueno for someone that wants to be taken seriously.
“Power poses” are universal among people and animals both. Animals that assert dominance, athletes that cross the finish line first, and powerful speakers all do the same thing: They open up.
Their arms are spread out, they stand tall, their chest area is wide open. What’s fascinating is that it’s not natural to mimic a power pose. Displays of power subconsciously trigger displays of weakness in others. Now, you’re certainly not on that stage to bully, but if you open up like a powerful leader, your listeners will naturally “fall in line” to follow your lead and listen.
The amount of movement involved in manifesting executive presence is a balancing act.
Moving too much can be distracting. Nerves can cause a speaker to constantly move around like a caffeinated spider, or sway back and forth like they’re on a boat. When you have a serious point to make or want everyone to pay attention, stay still, look your audience in the eye, and fight the urge to move.
Of course, standing in one place the entire time doesn’t work either. As you tell stories, move from one point to the other, or begin a more casual part of your talk, some slow strolling is necessary to keep your audience engaged.
And beware your hands! Sometimes the excess movement manifests as fidgeting. Any wedding ring, piece of jewelry, or length of hair is potential fidget fuel.
You want your hands to be part of the presentation, not part of any distraction. Focus on using them for expressive gestures, which we’ll discuss next. If you absolutely must, have a prop like a coffee cup to hold to discourage fidgeting. Just be careful of spillage.
Throw Some Hands
Hand gestures are a natural part of speaking. We normally don’t pay such close attention to what our hands are doing when we talk informally.
But before an audience, we might be tempted to keep our hands by our sides like they’re velcroed in place or flap them excessively like we’re trying to fly away.
A presentation that sounds great but isn’t accompanied by natural hand movements is easy to grade as forced and inauthentic. If the audience thinks you’re not authentic, then they might see your message the same way.
Unless you don’t use hand gestures (in which case, start practicing) often your natural, calm gestures are perfect. If you’re unsure, ask a trusted colleague or friend to observe you as you talk and let you know if you have any distracting quirks to iron out.
Yes, I’m Talking to You
You could get away with facing one direction and one direction only for the entire time that you’re speaking. But you want people to feel like you’re speaking to them one on one.
An easy way to accomplish this is to face different sections of the audience and speak to each of them for a while. The front. The back. The left. The right. Move from one side of the stage to the other (in moderation) as you do so. It will keep the audience engaged and connected with you as an individual.
For more effective, personalized ways to mastering body language and develop executive presence, there’s no substitute for seeking help from an executive presence training coach. Describing how that kind of body language is done will only go so far. After a certain point, mastery requires an expert who can give you the exact advice your unique self needs.
Check out Fia’s video on the 7 Deadly Sins of Nonverbal Communication for more tips:
Deeper Matters of Executive Presence: Master The Mind Of A Great Leader
The Science Of Transmuting Fear Into Personal Power
Fear is the ever-present specter that haunts anyone wanting to upgrade their leadership game.
The idea of speaking to large audiences of people, let alone leading them successfully, is enough to make anyone question if they’re qualified.
But you know what? That’s ok. There are ways of using your fear to your advantage. If it’s not going to move out anytime soon like a lazy teenager, you may as well give it a job.
To begin, you need to learn how to frame your fear in the first place.
As you further your career as an executive—or a leader in general—the more you’ll find that fear never completely goes away.
If a speaker feels no fear at all, they’re dead. Read that again.
Whether it’s the first presentation or the hundredth, every speaker carries some volume of butterflies with them when they get up to present.
Dealing with your fear is less a matter of eliminating it as it is a matter of feeling something stronger. Sure, you have this fear weighing in your stomach, but you also have a sense of courage, determination, or excitement that’s more compelling.
This is a good thing. Knowing that your goals are close can give you an excitement bigger than your fear.
Looking ahead past the event can also put your fear in perspective.
Backing down from the task of speaking might save you from feeling fear for a short while, but how does that stack up against the sting of regret? Sometimes opportunity truly knocks just once. How do you feel about the prospect of living with the knowledge that you tucked your tail between your legs when that door forward was open?
That fear doesn’t seem so big and bad now, does it?
Fear is temporary. The joy of pushing past it is lasting. And sadly, so is the regret of not trying. Don’t let a temporary emotion saddle you with a permanent bad feeling.
The Science Of Transmuting Fear Into Personal Power
Fear and excitement have a lot in common when you think about it. The breathing. The rapid pulse. The change that needs to happen is in the brain, not in the body.
- Start with simply saying out loud, “I’m excited!” Your brain is telling you you’re afraid. Speaking the opposite aloud, over time, will start a reprogramming effect.
- You can vent excess nervous energy by moving around before you’re presenting. Jog in place. Shake your hands. Don’t just let the pressure build up.
- Smile or think of something funny. Your brain will follow the emotion and movement.
- Visualize a successful outcome. This creates a roadmap for your mind and your body to follow.
Fear is just an emotion. A signal from your brain that you don’t have to listen to. Like a child screaming at the shadow on the wall. Just because they think it’s scary, doesn’t mean it has to be for you.
With that said, we are all human and fear can and will get the better of us in our life. We have to acknowledge that sometimes fears do come true.
The good news is that being broken by your fear can be a GREAT thing in the long run!
Failure Is Success
We’ve all failed—sometimes spectacularly.
A presentation bombs. We miss an important event. We say or do something so cringe it feels permanently etched into our minds.
Being afraid of those types of moments happening can hold people back.
It’s the sting of those moments actually happening that gets people to back down and never try again. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Rather than be crushed by failure, you can rise from it and come back stronger! Here’s how:
Change Your Perspective
Some experiences are unquestionably significant. The death of a loved one, a car crash, a dibilitating illness, etc. But giving a bad presentation, saying or doing something embarrassing—in the grand scheme of life are those really worth losing sleep over?
Our brains like to make everything seem big and important, it’s up to us to consciously set the scale about what is worth caring about.
Allow Yourself to Fail Forward
We learn from our mistakes. From falling over learning to walk to accidentally hitting “Reply All” in a company-wide email chain *shudder*.
A closed mindset will wallow in the mistake, but someone with a growth mindset developing executive presence will see each mistake as a stepping stone on their path to improving.
So make mistakes. It’s how you know you’re improving.
Don’t Worry About How Others Perceive Your Failures
Most people don’t care that you failed. Most people won’t even remember that you did. And honestly, most people aren’t thinking about you at all—they’re thinking about themselves.
And the important fact for you is, unless you’re using it to positively grow, you shouldn’t think about it either. It’s a cliché but seriously, why dwell on the past? It’s happened. Move on and focus on nailing it next time instead.
And you know what? If someone does happen to remember the previous failure, it makes your improvement and better performance next time that much more impressive.
Be Open To Feedback
Your mind is your own personal labyrinth. You think you know your way around, but the fact is we’re all stuck in certain perceptions and ways of thinking.
Feedback from a trusted source is a crucial and necessary way to ensure you get a perspective outside of your own biases. A new approach that may feel wrong, but is likely exactly what you need to push past your current limitations.
Celebrate Your Wins!
We all get so focused on what we do wrong that we can forget one of the most simple and powerful ways to improve ourselves.
Being proud of your achievements. Acknowledging when you’ve done a great job. Or even reacting positively to a failure when you’d normally get mad at yourself.
The important aspect is training your mind to focus on what you’re doing right and using that to guide you too.
Overcome Adversity For Incredible Growth
Have you ever found a book about accidental achievements?
A story where John or Jane Doe were sitting in their living room binging TV and eating popcorn when suddenly, their lives just FELL into place and they had the jobs, skills, and well-rounded lives they always wanted?
Building executive presence and benefiting from the doors it opens—none of it will happen by accident.
It takes work.
It’s an uphill battle.
Anyone that tells you differently just might be trying to take your money and run.
Going uphill always results in some level of tiredness. Not everyone knows how to deal with those moments. How do you catch your breath from deep inside?
You’ve seen people that never do. They go back down the way they came. So how do you find the strength you need to avoid that?
Keep Moving—No Really
This isn’t a platitude. When you feel discouragement from adversity overwhelming you, then you need to move your body physically. Changing your mind means changing your state, and changing your state means moving.
Go for a walk. Exercise. Do something that involves more than sitting and overthinking.
Physical movement helps release the feel-good chemicals in the brain which is already releasing stress-related hormones that make you feel crummy.
Your brain is where the good and bad feels are taking place, so you need to be a good “chemist” and get moving so you feel better.
Reflect on the Alternative
We get it, this is a lot to take in and the idea of working on all of these elements seems overwhelming. Where do you start? What’s the point of putting in all that time to speak a little better or fumble around trying to tell interesting stories?
Start anywhere. Try and improve any of these skills. Put in any amount of time you can. It will all be worth it!
But maybe you’ve cornered yourself into thinking that you can’t improve yourself right now or this is too much.
Okay—you think discouragement feels bad?
Quitting feels even worse.
Staying the same and never making any progress, in the long run, feels much worse. You can always feel worse if you want to choose that—and quitting is just the ticket.
So quit, or keep trying. Did that logic help even a little bit? Good. Don’t ever quit.
Show up Daily
You’ll hear people say that they wish they had a magic wand to make their stresses go away in one big incantation.
The irony is that they can achieve the same result through consistent daily effort.
Maximizing the power of what you can do in a day, every day, leads to outcomes that look very magical and miraculous. People on the outside call it luck, but it’s really daily effort.
Show up every day and work every day, even if you have many days’ worth of work on your plate.
That will provide a solid foundation that will be accelerated and elevated with executive presence coaching.
Build True Confidence
Like a professional actor, it’s possible to fake character traits through an alter ego, including confidence. But at some point it has to become real. It has to genuinely be yours.
You don’t want your confidence to be imaginary like a child wearing a superhero costume. You want the real deal.
So how do you get it?
Experiencing is Believing
Some people who say they can’t swim are perfectly capable swimmers, but they’re terrified of what it takes to find that out.
That first moment in their lives when they go under water—just thinking about it gives them palpitations. There’s only one way to get past that: Go under water.
No amount of prep work, mantras, essential oils, and acupuncture is going to resolve that preconceived terror like facing it head on. Everyone, once they experience that they can do something and they came out just fine, they gain confidence.
The more they take that wrecking ball approach to their fears, the more confidence they rack up as they witness themselves standing up and coming out victorious. Or failing and it not being nearly as bad as they thought.
The advice to do something daily that terrifies you isn’t about torturing yourself. It’s about building your confidence so it gets stronger over time.
Make Goals, Not Wishes
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, things are better, and you just wish you could be there.
But wishes don’t do diddly. Only goals do. The good news is that they have a lot in common and the major difference is a plan of action.
Set those deadlines, put in the time, and you can be on the road to where skies are blue instead of dreaming about it.
Emotional Intelligence and Executive Presence
Emotional intelligence is almost as difficult to define as executive presence.
Consider this: How would you describe someone that does their job intelligently?
Among other things, they know what works and what doesn’t. They know the procedures, the policies, and they know how to respond to customers.
Emotional intelligence is on the same wavelength.
An emotionally intelligent person knows how to manage their emotions strategically. Intelligently.
They know what their own triggers are. They gain insights into their own biases and blind spots for the sole purpose of changing them, or at least keeping them from interfering with their job performance.
Naturally, this means that such a person also understands the emotional mechanics of others. They understand what may trigger people in general. What flies and what doesn’t.
They know how to deal if they have to interact with someone that is hostile or begging for confrontation.
Because the more you understand the complexities of your mind and all the different ways it has adapted (good and bad) to help you survive, the more you’ll be able to appreciate just how complex other people are too.
A person with a solid grasp of executive leadership understands that the way they manage their emotions contributes to exuding that air of confidence and passion. Which is also how you communicate a high level of executive presence.
This might be a revelation if you’ve believed that executive presence must be divorced from emotions.
Key elements of executive presence are fueled by emotions. You want to win over the thoughts and emotions of the people you speak to.
Too much emotion can ruin your ability to handle emotions intelligently. No emotion robs you of your likability, authenticity, and humanity.
But the right amount of emotion? Of feeling without being overwhelmed. Of experiencing anxiety and excitement, hate and love, sadness and joy. Allowing it all to happen without pushing it deep down.
A person who can do that is charismatic, compassionate, self-assured—all exceptional qualities shared by all great leaders.
Awareness of Self
For some, emotions are like squatters in their home that they aren’t even aware of—food disappears, utilities get broken, valuable resources seem to be spent or depleted all without you knowing how or why.
How are you supposed to be true to yourself if you aren’t even aware of what’s really going on inside of your mind?
Maximizing your executive presence, therefore, means taking inventory of yourself, including your emotions. With this knowledge, you know what’s at your disposal in any given situation.
What you can leverage. What you should avoid. How to be grounded, confident, and appropriate.
Skipping self-awareness would be playing poker without looking at the cards you’re holding—a sure recipe for folly and ruin.
To build this awareness you simply need to be curious. When you do something you don’t like, ask “Why?” and then dig far past the first few answers. Analyze yourself and you may surprise yourself when you find out the real reason.
Awareness of Others
You might be very self-aware of your emotional makeup. But are you aware of how others are experiencing your emotions? Experiencing their situations on the job? Experiencing themselves?
Understanding how to read others gives you data that is unique to them, which will guide how you flex your executive presence with specific individuals or teams.
There’s more to this than studying articles on nonverbal cues. You must be willing to let go of your own preconceptions about people. You can’t read people accurately if you’re looking at them through your own lenses. Objective, neutral reception is the only way to gain information that isn’t distorted.
With that, here’s a crash course in reading the emotions of others.
But one important thing to bear in mind is this:
All of these are clues to the big picture. In isolation, none of these are sure-fire ways to know how someone really feels.
If you have the relationship, asking is always the best and most direct way to know.
Body Language Cues: What You See
How is the individual dressed? Whether in a suit or jeans and a t-shirt, does it look like they took care in getting ready? Or are there signs they have just thrown the outfit on without thinking?
What is the outfit communicating about their current mental state?
Are their heads high and their eyes facing the world in bravery and confidence? Or do they cower, avert their eyes, and hide their body?
Remember, some people aren’t aware of what their body language is communicating. They may be confident but just have a habit of avoiding eye contact.
Are they leaning towards you or away from you? Hint: on average we learn towards the people we like. Arms or legs crossed can convey anger, self-protection, or defensiveness. Or a cold body.
Are they hiding their hands? Perhaps in their laps or their pockets, or even behind their backs…they could be hiding something. People that are biting their lips or picking their fingers could be nervous and trying to soothe themselves. Or they could be bored.
Unless you know them well, never assume you know how someone is feeling based on just a few idiosyncrasies.
Intuitive Cues: What You Sense
Give first impressions credit
They don’t tell you everything, but note what your gut tells you in the first few moments of knowing a person.
Notice goosebumps when present
If something that someone says or does causes us to have goosebumps, it means that we resonate with them on some level.
Those “Eureka!” moments
We have all kinds of flashes of insight, including insights on people, but we move on to the next thought so quickly. Stay on your toes and hold on to these intuitive flashes when they occur, or they could be gone forever.
Empathy through intuition
Did you walk out of a meeting feeling pain in your back or intense emotions that weren’t there before? It’s possible that you picked up the physical or emotional symptoms of others. But the only way to know for sure would be to get feedback.
Emotional Cues - What You Feel
Emotions are powerful things, and they can trigger our intuition easily. Some people make us feel better when they’re around. Others make us feel like we’re drowning. It’s all emotional energy, and being sensitive to it can give you more emotional data to work with as you go about using Executive Presence.
Pay attention to presence – This is an overall impression that you get of someone when they’re around. It’s the atmosphere they create with their presence. Do you find their “energy” attractive or repulsive?
Pay attention to people’s eyes – Without staring like a creep, carefully observe people’s eyes. The window to the soul reveals tons of data. Also notice any discrepancies between what the eyes say and what the mouth says.
Physical contact – A hug or a handshake can tell you a lot. Most of us can tell when these gestures are full of or absent of warmth. A clammy handshake is a clear indicator of nerves. A lax handshake could tell you that they aren’t as “aboard” on a venture as you thought.
Tone of Voice – The way someone sounds is a close runner up to the eyes. Is the voice soothing or abrasive? Clipped, whiny, or low? Practice paying attention.
Before you start jotting down notes to memorize what each movement means we want to remind you that all of this, is pretty much intuitive. While these are cues and clues to be aware of, the real art is in truly paying attention and listening to others.
If you’re not in your head and ensuring you’re present with the people around you, you’ll discover that you have a natural intuition about how they’re feeling. We all do.
We’ve already touched on authenticity, but as far as emotional intelligence goes, authenticity represents an alignment in all your expressions.
If what you say doesn’t align with how you say it, people will notice, and will wonder how much of what they see they can believe. Doubt about your own authenticity will spread to doubt about the authenticity of your message.
You don’t have to hide that you’re upset with a colleague or scared about talking with your boss. You can communicate it with confidence and compassion. It’s uncertainty that makes conversations difficult.
If you have all your cards on the table and nothing to hide, you and everyone will find it much easier to have meaningful conversations.
Emotions always have been and always will be part of making decisions.
They may be 1%, they may be 95%, but they will never be zero. Therefore, make room for appealing to the emotions of others when trying to get them to see things or do things your way.
Of course, leave room for hard facts. A strictly emotional appeal is transparent and gaudy.
A worthwhile executive coach takes a deep dive into these matters and can carve the best path forward for you.
Let’s bring that last point a little closer to home:
People Are The Focus
We’ve covered some really mystical, abstract-sounding stuff. But there are some bits of executive leadership that are simple. This is one of them:
If you don’t focus on people, your ability with leadership in general—let alone executive leadership—is going to be stunted.
We mentioned that leadership is just influence. Well, what is influence? Part of it is adding value to the lives of others. Someone with a strong grasp of executive leadership knows how to add value to the lives of the people they interact with.
They walk away feeling educated, inspired, enlightened. Their understanding of a thing increases. This adds value to their daily experience, and they naturally want to reciprocate by following such a person.
A business doesn’t grow through its rules, regulations, and policies. Those things may be the nails that keep the ship together, but that’s not where the growth is. The growth is in the people.
When the people grow, the business grows. And they grow when they feel that the experience of living is gaining value.
More often than not, when you find yourself noticing that you’re very limited in what you can do for yourself, you’ll see plenty of opportunities to make things better for others. If you’re already a leader in some capacity, you want a spirit of “watering others” to take hold in the company culture.
If you aren’t a leader yet, you can still set an example. There’s always someone that looks up to you in some capacity, and they’ll imitate your spirit. At the very least, you’ll reap the psychological rewards of doing good deeds.
Helping others truly is helping yourself.
Approach every article, course, or piece of advice with room to see how you can use it to make someone else’s day better too.
Executive Presence In Moments Of Dissent
We’ve all heard about “workplace politics.” It’s usually the subject of negative jokes and professional horror stories. And we won’t deny that there is some truth to those negative accounts.
But there are also positive aspects, and here’s why.
It comes down to where workplace politics originate. A company is a group of people. Each and every single human being is a galaxy of beliefs, thinking patterns, desires, passions, biases, agendas, and yes—dislikes.
When you get hundreds, if not thousands of such people under a single roof or a single company umbrella, there’s a lot bumping together.
Some of those forces work together very well. Those positive bits, those parts of workplace politics that align and cooperate—someone who knows their executive leadership has the power to bend those forces under their influence.
This calls on each would-be leader to reflect on the responsibility of the power they bring into the world. If you can divert the waters of workplace politics, you can set an army’s worth of force in motion and, realistically, nobody can stop you from manifesting that power.
This is why ethics are so important.
But then there’s the aspect of workplace politics most folks are the most familiar with—when forces work against each other.
Ambition, agenda, and plain old opinion can create competition. Executive presence is handy even in those situations. It aids in allowing you to communicate assertively.
This is often confused with aggression. But thankfully there’s a difference.
Bullies are interested in winning at all costs. Self is first priority, and the wants and needs of others are expendable at best.
Someone that is assertive recognizes the value of their own interests while still respecting the needs and wants of those around them. They even bring empathy for others into play when making a polite stand for their own position.
Being assertive can be a fairly straightforward matter, keeping some strategies in your back pocket
Use “I” Statements
This is how you take responsibility for your own emotions without blaming them on other, using statements like I am, I need, I want.
Change Your Verbs
Use verbs that are more definite. Say that you will be going on vacation next week, instead of you’d like to go on vacation next week.
Beef Out Your “No-I-Can’t” Statements
Sometimes you honestly can’t drop what you’re doing to take care of someone’s request.
But by itself, “No I can’t” sounds kinda harsh and could make someone confrontational.
A simple fix is saying “I can’t commit to that right now, but give me a few minutes/days/whatever is required.” This shows that you still care about the needs of the person making the request.
A variation of this is “Thanks, but no thanks.” Thanks for keeping me in the loop, but I can’t make it this time. And so on. The empathy remains and is palpable.
We have to acknowledge that some of those politics arise from gender diversity in the boardroom. Women face specific challenges in the executive world that men don’t.
But the good news is executive coaching for women exists specifically to help women address those challenges and nuances.
Feel Ready To Develop Your Executive Presence?
If you diligently practice everything you’ve read down to this point, then your grasp, mastery, and execution of executive leadership will be far beyond many around you.
But a blog post is very one-size-fits-all: It only fits to a point.
Your unique style of executive presence needs a program of instruction that is tailor-made, like a good business suit.
If you benefit from what you’ve read here, then you’ve seen only a small part of what Moxie Institute can do for you through executive presence coaching.
We encourage you to reach out and see why we’re repeatedly appraised as the world’s best. If the paid route isn’t on your radar right now, there’s still a wealth of free resources at MoxieInstitute.com and our YouTube channel that you can use to upgrade your leadership game, and the collection is still growing.
The way you make others feel is your legacy. The Moxie Team wishes you a long road of moments where you leave people feeling heard, supported, and inspired.
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