How to acquire executive presence
3 must-have qualities to turn heads
By Jill Arkell, Team & Leadership Coach, Altus Q
Executive Presence

We know it when we see it, the person who walks into a room and commands attention. Heads turn and focus shifts. Something tells us that someone has stepped into our aura and they should be listened to.

It’s not what they say but more a presence they project that tells us they are a person of substance. Someone in whom we can believe and who can make a positive difference to our world.

Contrary to popular belief, presence has little to do with how we dress. Many of us have experienced those with strong presence who are not particularly well dressed or groomed. That’s not to say it can’t make a difference but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Presence is more inside out than outside.

Executive presence is desirable in leadership because it gives you influence. Those with presence connect to us at a deep instinctive level, provoking action that is more the result of unconscious (as opposed to conscious) thought. This is powerful as we make decisions primarily for emotional reasons. Presence allows us to energise others to act. So what can you do to develop executive presence and help you influence others?

3 must-have qualities to turn heads and project presence

1. Authenticity
Authenticity comes from the heart. It is knowing your values and beliefs and having clarity about what you stand for. It is the foundation of trust because people who are authentic are consistent. More importantly, because it comes from the heart, authenticity connects to the heart, mobilising the collaborative energy that leads others to act.

2. Confidence
Confidence breeds confidence. We’re not talking about ego but the essence of self-belief. Playing to your strengths enables you to be at ease. This puts others at ease and is the basis of truly collaborative environments. By understanding and building on your strengths, you gain resilience, the invaluable ability to recover quickly from setbacks and to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and have another go. It is a key leadership lesson as leaders fail more often than others. However, they don’t give up. They are unrelenting in overcoming obstacles until they achieve their goals.

3. Be receptive
Being receptive to feedback is a simple gift that keeps on giving. It costs nothing, takes minimal time and yet gives back in spades. It is by far our most cost effective method of continuous improvement. By inviting feedback we also put the focus on others rather than ourselves, creating the foundations for collaboration. We commit to the decisions of others even when we don’t agree, as long as we feel we’ve been heard.

Executive presence is a learned skill, not an inherited one. While some take to it more easily than others, we can all acquire it if we choose. For aspiring leaders, presence is essential to the new paradigm of 21st century leadership in which leaders no longer command through “Do as I say” but inspire through “Do as I do”.




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