Passing the Hall Test

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity and responsibility to evaluate executives and rising executives. While most of them had great track records and success, there was also this “it” factor that separated the high-risers from the rest. This “it” factor is executive presence, and this article will touch on a few of the things that will help you shine above the rest. Whether you’re at a career crossroads or you want to improve the level of effectiveness in your current position, one thing is clear – executive presence is key to instilling confidence in your team and opening doors for future success. Executive presence is more than looking professional or holding a senior-level title in an organization – it’s how you portray yourself to others in the room and how others react to your leadership. Executive presence is not  a trait that you are born with, it is a learned skill that requires constant self-awareness and continual self coaching. You must constantly be aware of how you present yourself, whether it be in the boardroom, on the factory floor, or by the water cooler. Your staff should look to you for inspiration in any given situation. Read on to learn how to cultivate your executive presence and find success with confidence.

Are Your Nonverbal Cues Selling You Short?

Let’s start with the nonverbal basics. People are always reading your body language. Your posture and appearance can say volumes. Even if your ideas are world-changing, if you’re not dressed professionally or if you slouch or lean, or (heaven forbid) smell badly, no one will listen. Why? Because the way you look and hold yourself sets the tone of the interaction before you ever utter a word. Similarly, your facial expressions can exude a wide range of emotions, including fear, frustration, or friendliness. Think about the emotion that you want to convey and continually manage your facial expressions accordingly. Don’t forget to display active listening skills; nod as others speak and ask clarifying questions to show you’re actively listening. 

Displaying Confidence, Clarity, and Character

Noted entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly.” It sounds like a tall order for anyone to achieve, but the truth is these traits all boil down to how you present yourself to others. Displaying authenticity, well-mannered etiquette, empathy for your team, restraint when needed, and humility is essential.Technology thought leaders and innovators, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, shared common characteristics despite being competitors in the computer marketplace. Both men knew how to display confidence and clarity of vision to their team. They saw upcoming market trends and inspired those under them to leverage their potential and efforts toward innovation. They laid a clear path for what they were trying to achieve, and then gave their people the resources to do the job. A well-articulated vision is paramount for success. And with vision, confidence will follow.

Cultivating successful communication

Building a successful executive presence goes beyond your persona; it displays your connections with others as well. The most inspiring leaders are first good listeners. They show charisma by “staying in the moment” during discussions with others and asking smart questions. They also value others’ time by concisely presenting ideas, validating them, then leaving the discussion open for more questions. Good leaders also communicate ideas in a concise, simple, and clear manner while avoiding poor habits like insensitivity, sounding uneducated on the matter at hand, and posting inappropriately on social media. By providing forward-looking leadership that concentrates on both the present and future goals, you’ll display an executive presence others will defer to. 

The final take away

By displaying the executive presence in how you dress, hold yourself, and communicate, you’ll instill confidence in your team. By displaying influence while still listening to what others have to contribute you build respect with your peers. By cultivating open communication and shared, actionable steps toward a goal, you’ll lay the path for your organization to find success. While these traits rarely come naturally to us, with ongoing self-awareness you can not only present yourself in the best possible light, you’ll bring the best out in others.