What IS Executive Presence and Why Does it Matter?

Executive presence means looking like a leader by the way you think and the way you act. How you ‘show up.’ Recognizing that you are tasked with moving beyond day-to-day responsibilities and taking things to the next level. What you’re thinking about, what you’re talking about and how you are talking when you say it makes a difference.

There are two main components of executive presence. The first is your mindset and what you focus on. The second is non-verbal communication. These two umbrellas encompass numerous smaller parts. It is essential that leaders both think and act at an executive level.

Mindset and Focus

One aspect of thinking like a leader is shifting your mindset. Rather than thinking tactically, you must think strategically. A helpful way to think about this is to consider a train.

  • Tactical Thinkers: A tactical thinker, such as a manager, is responsible for keeping the train running. They ensure that the train is running on schedule and that any repairs are efficiently made. Their focus is on today and spearheading day-to-day activities and operations.
  • Strategic Thinkers: A strategic thinker, such as a leader or executive, looks at the bigger picture. They trust the manager to handle the basics while they are thinking longer term. Would it be wise to convert from diesel engines to electric? Should routes be expanded to reach more customers? Is it cost efficient to lay new tracks? Leaders also look at how they can run the train more efficiently overall.

Another difference is that while tactical thinkers give reports and updates on current situations, strategic thinkers are generating the questions that lead to growth and development. They know that someone else is handling today, so they are looking at tomorrow.

This can be a challenging shift to make. Oftentimes employees become “super-doers.” They rise through the ranks because they are excellent at what they do and have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed. When they get promoted to a leadership position, however, they must change their role. They are no longer just making products, but are leading others in how to make products, and are driving the company forward as a whole. Leaders put all of the pieces together to create change and growth.

In a meeting, leaders must convey a sense of control over their actions and comments should match their seniority. The tone of their voice, the content of their comments, and even when they choose to speak up all matter and must be considered carefully.

Non-Verbal Communications

Moving beyond words, how you ‘show up’ physically has a great impact on others. Leaders must pay attention to details such as:

  • Body language – what emotion are they conveying? Does it fit with the message they are trying to get across?
  • Attire – does their clothing look like that of an executive who takes their job seriously and commands respect?
  • Facial expression – does the look on their face match what they are saying and come across as genuine?

Posture and appearance can make a big difference in a meeting. People are not always aware of how they come across to others or the impression that they are making. Taking the time to evaluate how what you say aligns with what you look like while you are saying it can be valuable. If you want to be taken seriously and gain trust and respect, you have to look and act the part.

If you are struggling with making this transition from a manager to a leader, JP Kantor Consulting is prepared to help. With a range of executive coaching services, we can help you develop your skills to become a more effective leader and build the presence you need to become more successful. Contact us today!