Maren Perry’s Top 10 Soft Skills that Compose Executive Presence

Skills ConceptExecutive Presence.

It’s a very hot term these days, especially in the coaching world.  Everyone wants it, and yet it is somehow elusive because it incorporates so many soft skills that are challenging to identify and improve.  Our Executive Coaches are frequently working with clients on building up their Executive Presence.  Sometimes, clients initially think of it like the famous definition of art, “I know it when I see it”.  Well, for those of you who actually want to work on it and not just recognize it, let’s define what it is.  These are the top ten soft skills that we find our clients looking to address to improve their Executive Presence.


A leader with Executive Presence:

1. Has confidence. Great.  What is it?  We break it into these components:

  • Clarity about who one is and comfort with being liked/accepted, or not, by others
  • Having no apology for one’s presence, ideas or opinions (not to be confused with pompousness or bullying)
  • Taking up space with one’s being/personality and  physical gestures (not shrinking or being meek in expression)
  • Willing to express one’s ideas, including willing to say when wrong

2. Speaks clearly and concisely.  Bottom lines without unnecessary story.  At top levels, there is more and more bottom-lining and more facts, simply stated; less meandering story-telling and detail.

3. Is responsive, not reactive Listens thoughtfully and considers before responding.   Considers the impact of choices prior to making them.

4. Holds the big picture – looking to the past for lessons, the future for possibilities and trusting the details will get worked out.  Strategic.  Visionary.

5. Does not react from emotion.  This is NOT the same as being devoid of emotion; one just doesn’t react from that place automatically.  Doesn’t sweat the small stuff – no “freaking out”.

6. Respectful and respected across all levels of the organization.  Being respected comes from being respectful to all whether they own the building or clean it.

7. Is highly enrolling– able to get others on board with their ideas and taking action on them

  • Speaks how others can hear them, in other words, alters their communication style to the listener.  You wouldn’t expect a French speaker to understand Hungarian: you can’t expect to speak your “Hungarian” to everyone in the organization when some of them speak French.
  • Gets people excited about a vision and owning it to the extent they take action on it themselves

8. Is authentic – no one looks up to someone they see as not representing their true selves, or worse, being lying or manipulative.Arden Executive Coaching | Maren Perry’s Top 10 Soft Skills that Compose Executive Presence

9. Presents themselves well– it does make a difference in how one is perceived.  Components include:

  • Moves well, not awkwardly.
  • Dresses appropriately or better for the situation.
  • Uses appropriate language, gestures, etc.
  • Has firm hand shake, good eye contact, clear speaking (no mumbling)

10. Possesses a high level of Emotional Intelligence:  fosters awareness of self and others and their humanity and acts in accordance with this knowledge.

It’s easy to write these soft skills in a list; improving them is another story.  That’s what takes place over time in Executive Coaching.  We’re working to build up these areas, and, much like Michelangelo famously said of creating a beautiful human sculpture out of a block of marble: just removing the things that aren’t that.

To inquire further about our Executive Coaching programs, contact us.

We’re interested to hear what else you consider essential soft skills for Executive Presence.  Please comment below.  We welcome your contribution.