What do KFC, Coca-Cola, and executive presence all have in common? Well, they all have a secret ingredient! And without the secret ingredient, they just won’t be the same.
Executive presence might seem a little mysterious like you can’t put your finger on it exactly. Most of us can quickly identify someone who has executive presence, and we admire them for their leadership or other qualities. But building executive presence yourself comes down to this “secret sauce” made of four essential ingredients: presence, warmth, competence, and communication.
4 Ways to Have Executive Presence
Leaders should work to develop each of these four characteristics of executive presence. Some may come more naturally than others, but they are all important. Once you are competent in all of them, you will begin to understand when and where to draw on them when you’re in a position of leadership.
This must be important because it’s right there in the name! Presence is about how you exist, how you are as a person. And an important question to ask is this: what is the quality of your presence? Some people might be peaceful and calm, while others are anxious and fearful.
The reality is that anything we feel internally, we show externally. So, it’s important to pay attention to our internal presence so that we can show up with a strong executive presence. This can be done through two strategies:
- Learn to recognize and acknowledge your feelings at the moment.
- Identify emotional triggers in specific situations.
These two things help lead us to greater self-awareness, which will then help improve the quality of your presence, both internally and externally.
Every time we meet someone, we have several conversations and thoughts running through our heads. And one of them comes from our primitive days when we wonder if the other person is a friend or enemy. To determine if they’re a friend, we need to see that they are warm, safe, and approachable. This is one important hallmark of executive leadership.
Good leaders will make someone else feel like they are the only person in the room during a discussion. Other people will feel comfortable talking to them because they are warm and open. So, how can you express warmth? There are two ways:
- Non-verbal body language: Show yourself to be approachable through body language such as eye contact, open posture, or nodding your head.
- Verbal language: Draw people out in conversation by putting them at ease when they’re with you. It’s also important to get comfortable with silence and not have to fill every single gap
This characteristic of executive leadership is something most of us are familiar with. We don’t want to follow a leader who isn’t able to get things done! Competence and confidence are also displayed through verbal and nonverbal cues:
- Non-verbal competence looks like a strong handshake, head held high, good posture, and confident stance.
- Verbal competence is being direct and clear in communication.
It might seem that warmth and competence are at odds with each other, but they’re not. Some people are naturally warmer and others more confident. The important thing for a leader to do is to develop both characteristics and then lean into each one as the situation demands. For example, if you’re having a one-on-one meeting with an employee, channel your warmth. If it’s a presentation, bring out the competence!
Communication is an essential skill for everyone, but particularly for those looking to grow in their executive presence. Here are three ways to modify your language and communication to build executive presence:
- Be succinct: The sign of a great communicator is someone who can express an idea in a succinct way, with clarity.
- Watch out for filler words: This diminishes executive presence, so eliminate them by slowing down your speech and being thoughtful about what you say.
- Be a storyteller: People remember stories! Take your ideas and put them into a story so that people will remember them
Unlike Coca-Cola, we can identify the secret ingredients for executive presence! Take some time to consider these four elements and evaluate where you can improve. Once you consistently incorporate them into your work and leadership, you will see your executive presence grow and make an impact on those around you.