Executive Presence: almost everyone recognizes it when they see it. Some might even say it it is the most sought after quality in business today. When a person with executive presence walks into a meeting room Blackberries shut down, laptops close and tweets cease. Why? Because this kind of business presence means respect and power.
So a logical question is: are we born with this power or can it be developed?
The answer is both. Some individuals just have an innate grace and presence. Colin Powell and Princess Diana are perfect examples. But for the rest of us, there are steps we can take to advance our own executive presence.
Here are seven tactics you can take to advance your own executive presence no matter where you are on your career ladder.
Step 1. Make a Commitment. The first step is to recognize that developing your executive presence is a long-term commitment and a process. It will not happen overnight. Methodically commit everyday to one action to advance your goal.
Step 2. Invest in a Makeover. True executive presence is a total package: how you speak and act and how you look. First impressions count. So invest in an image consultant to help package you: hair, glasses, clothes, make-up. The whole works. Many high-end department stores like Nordstroms have personal shoppers who can outfit you. Well worth the time and effort.
Step 3. Speak with a Purpose. Individuals with presence don’t waste time with verbal rambling or idle chatter. When you communicate, have a clear goal in mind, stay on message and be as targeted and concise as you can.
Step 4. Structure Your Communication. Leaders with executive presence communicate in a logical and structured way. They might use numbers to guide us: “Let’s look at four reasons why we are achieving our goals.” Or clearly break their verbal communication into units: “Our first quarter had a rough open, then a gradual increase, Let’s examine why.” Package your ideas in a way all audiences can follow.
Step 5. Choose Words Carefully. A key component of executive presence is not only structure but also memorable communication (think Ronald Reagan, The Great Communicator). For meetings or conversations, prepackage some ideas, especially for the beginning or end of your communication: thoughts that will make listeners stand up and take note. If people associate you with memorable words, you are increasing their awareness of you as a strategic communicator.
Step 6. Treat Everyone with Respect. When you meet someone with executive presence, they look you in the eye, shake your hand, and speak to you as if you were the most important person in the room. Offer up respect to everyone you come in contact with.
Step 7. Act with Passion and Conviction. Individuals with presence exude passion, commitment and conviction. Engage in activities that you are truly committed to. Get involved with projects that really turn your passion on, and let your colleagues hear and see your conviction. Inspire them.
No one develops executive presence overnight. It’s a long process. The road to executive presence always starts with one small step, but it is a journey well worth taking.