Executive Presence is one of those terms mentioned often that can be tricky to define; people assume you know it when you see it yet can’t state exactly what it is or list its defining characteristics. Other myths surrounding executive presence are that’s it inborn, instinctive, and can’t be learned or acquired.
The truth is that executive presence, gravitas, charisma, or whatever you decide to call it, can be taught, acquired and defined.
Let’s start with the definition. Executive presence can be defined as a group of traits that when found together in the same person, add up to a feeling of confidence, leadership, allure and trust. Those with executive presence exude an outward calm and composure, yet with a palpable underlying energy that you immediately sense before you actually observe it. People who exhibit executive presence have an ability to draw others to them while remaining engaged, seemingly humble and unaware of their effect on others.
There are four areas where those with executive presence stand out:
- First Impressions happen during the first seven second of a meeting. Eye contact, posture, facial expression, handshake and general appearance all go into making a positive first impression.
- Communication Skills are both spoken and non-verbal. Good communicators get their point across using concise language and simple phrases. They don’t use terms like “try”, “should”, “maybe” or “but”. They include everyone if they “work a room” but genuinely engage and pay close attention to one on one conversations.
- Behavior is tied into keeping your word, following up and being kind. Those who behave with presence are busy but still manage to appear composed and address unexpected situations with poise and grace. They move with intention.
- Appearance plays a role in both first impressions and the feeling that one belongs or fits in. Appearance includes eliminating the negative aspects so as to keep the focus on the best. It doesn’t mean being formal, it means looking the part and enhancing your natural features.
These areas obviously overlap as looking the part fits into first impressions and appearance, while body language is part of both communication skills and behavior. It only emphasizes the fact that all four areas must work in tandem to be consistently sending the same message, which leads to the fifth and final component of executive presence: authenticity. As an authentic communicator you are both believable and trustworthy and although others may not always agree with your message, they can be sure that you have the passion and sincerity to deliver it.