Many executives are wondering about their “executive presence”, thanks in part to books such as The Power of Presencei and Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Successii by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Executive presence has also emerged as a key focus for executives in executive coaching.
So what is executive presence? It has been described in many ways including: the “it” factor, the ‘secret sauce’ and the “je ne sais quoi”iii for executives. It is beyond just your personal brand. The 268 executives who participated in Hewlett’s study identified three key areas for executive presence: how you act, how you speak and how you look. Hewlett’s study found that how you act, also known as gravitas, is by far the most important of the three factors. According to Hewlett, a key element in gravitas is being able to communicate great amounts of knowledge, appearing deep in the subject, while being compelling and brief. Gravitas also includes exuding “grace under fire”, and the ability to remain calm in high-pressure situationsiv.
Are you conveying the messages you want to convey? Do others think that you have sufficient executive presence? Why does it matter? As noted by Murrayv, it is a learned skill, and when you possess executive presence, you are more likely to make it to the top – and stay there longer than others. Assuming that you have other key competencies required for the job, if you haven’t been able to land that key position, chances are that your executive presence needs some work. It is typically more challenging for women as numerous studies have found that women are held to greater standards than menvi.
Five Steps to Strengthen Your Executive Presence:
- Read up about executive presence to gain a more in-depth understanding about this “it” factor;
- Ask trusted friends and colleagues for candid feedback on your executive presence;
- Identify areas where you can benefit from some development;
- Practice, practice, practice. Every day!
- Consider working with an executive coach.
Remember, executive presence is a learned skill. Are you ready to strengthen your executive presence?
If you would like to discuss executive coaching with me related to your executive presence, I will welcome your contact. I have developed a confidential 360 assessment related to executive presence, which will give you important feedback on how your executive presence is perceived in your workplace and professional circles. The 360 assessment results provide a great starting point for coaching conversations!
© Dr. Karen Somerville, PhD, MBA, Certified Executive Coach, CPA, CGA — with more than 25 years of experience in Senior Management
i Hedges, K. (2011), The power of presence: Unlock your potential to influence and engage others. AMACON.
ii Hewlett, S. (2014), Executive presence: The missing link between merit and success. Harper Business.
iii Murray, J. (2013), ‘Executive presence’: The je ne sais quoi that makes a strong leader. Financial Post.
iv Hewlett, S. (2014), Executive presence: The missing link between merit and success. Harper Business.
v Murray, J. (2013), ‘Executive presence’: The je ne sais quoi that makes a strong leader. Financial Post.
vi Center for Talent Innovation, (2013). Executive presence.