Deconstructing and Developing Your Executive Presence
Executive presence (EP) is an ever elusive trait that all aspiring executives know they need exhibit, but its definition is mystifying at best. Grace under pressure, intellect, appearance and the ability to inspire others are all attributes one may use to describe it, however executive presence continues to be highly intuitive and difficult to pin down. What it will ultimately boil down to is one’s ability to project a mature self-confidence that gives others the sense you have control in difficult unpredictable situations. Do you have the skills to make tough decisions in a timely fashion and hold your own with other talented, strong-willed members of the executive team all while making your own team feel supported?
In the article ‘How to Crack the Code of Executive Presence’ by Irene McConnell, How to Crack the Code of Executive Presence/Forbes, McConnell describes it as visceral and indescribable, something that eludes definition citing that hiring executive will just “know it” when they see it. In a plot twist she provides an outline, a “homework” of sorts for those who are serious about acquiring it starting with pinpointing a person in your network who exudes this presence stating they need not hold an executive role.
When thinking about the energy they emit, their ability to connect, as well as their overall appearance ask yourself, “what draws me and others to them?” After thoughtful consideration to this question, McConnell suggests you turn these questions towards yourself; sensibly reflecting on your own presence using these key indicators. Be bold yet humble enough to ask a trusted colleague to provide insight to how others may describe you as well. She proposes asking yourself what you want to be known for, as answering this simple yet complex question is critical to developing your executive presence.
Putting the work into developing your value proposition is one that McConnell states is a serious “investment in yourself”, calling it foundational to creating the optimal presence that is unique to you.
Upon completion of this exercise, it is imperative we remember that presence is very much about our mindset. Mindset cultivates how others perceive you mostly because it is what we project into the world. Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy writes in her book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges that a large part of how you come across to others is rooted in your personal belief in your abilities. The quiet confidence that stems from putting in the hard work to develop yourself both personally and professionally is something that is steadfast and stable. Ultimately it will yield results.