Five Ways to Demonstrate Executive Presence Today

Expressing an authentic sense of executive presence can be a challenge. And sometimes techniques may seem forced. So, perhaps it’s a blessing that we’re seeing fewer cliche power ties and power stances, and subject to fewer awkwardly firm handshakes these days.

True executive presence remains important, however, no matter how we are working. According to a study by the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation, being perceived as having leadership qualities is essential to being promoted into positions of leadership.

Much has changed about the way we work… But much about establishing executive presence has NOT changed. Here are some consistently critical keys for creating genuine executive presence.

1. Be prepared!

There’s tremendous value in being prepared for your work and your role. Whether you are leading a company or directing a project team, do your homework. Think through different scenarios and potential questions, concerns, and needs that others may have. Meet your deadlines. Deliver what you promise.

Preparation builds confidence, and confidence builds executive presence. Your subordinates and colleagues will grow to trust in your abilities, judgment, and diligence. Preparation helps you handle both the expected and the unexpected, so being prepared builds self-confidence too — an important element of executive presence. Preparation also helps to minimize those moments when you might otherwise feel caught off-guard and react in a knee-jerk fashion.

2. Do not react from a place of emotion

People with executive presence don’t overreact or freak-out when things get difficult. They do not lash out in anger when things don’t go their way. And they don’t “sweat the small stuff.”

It’s important to recognize that this does not mean that you need to be emotionless to have executive presence. Far from it. Emotions such as empathy are vital. The key is to avoid responding to others based on emotional impulses.

3. Make others feel special

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Executives who make eye contact, listen to others attentively, and behave in ways that demonstrate that they care about the interests, concerns, and welfare of others show leadership (and are perceived as leaders) by making others feel valued.

4. Even when working remotely, appearances matter

While video conferencing and working-from-home, most of us are dressing casually, creating makeshift office spaces, and dealing with the bustle of small children and cats wandering in front of webcams with grace and good humor. But there are limits, and even in these times people take notice — and so should you. 

When video conferencing, dress appropriately — avoid appearing sloppy or letting your clothing be a distraction. Minimize background clutter. Remove anything on the walls or bookcases behind you that takes attention away from you as a speaker or meeting participant. For accurate color, use as much natural or blue light as you can. Do not backlight yourself: you don’t want to look like a silhouette in the federal witness protection program. Your camera angle is important as well. Interestingly, experts have recently identified the importance of placing the camera at eye-level, and at a slight distance to show not only your face but more of your upper torso — this communicates body language more naturally.

Learn more about skills that help make up executive presence.

5. Be real

Executive presence must be accomplished in a way that is authentic for you. Nothing could be more damaging to your professional development than being perceived as fake, disingenuous, or manipulative. These tips for conveying executive presence, developed in a way that is sincere and stays true to yourself, will serve you well in your quest to be an ever-better executive and leader.

See more in Arden Coaching’s blog article, “Executive Presence: From Emotional Intelligence to Body Language.”

To learn more about executive presence and leadership development, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.