The title of my newsletter "Aspiring to a more senior role? Enhance your Executive Presence
" is the title of an article written by Suzi Skinner in Australia. This subject is a prominent part of my coaching practice and I have several professional situations where it's a focus of my work these days. First I am coaching several clients who are the COO or Assistant Director of their organizations and they're preparing to take over as CEO or Executive Director. The question of executive presence and how to consistently cultivate it is a big learning curve for these clients.
Secondly, I am co-leading a Women in Leadership
course in my role as an Affiliate Consultant at Interaction Associates
. In this workshop, we guide women to understand their unique strengths and barriers to success. Participants create action plans to overcome systemic barriers and grow their leadership skills, they learn negotiation skills critical for career success and finally participants build a network of other women to support them.
One of the leadership qualities we address in this course is executive presence
. What is executive presence? In Sylvia Ann Hewlett book, The Missing Link Between Merit and Success
, she writes that executive presence is comprised of three elements. They are:
1. Gravitas (how you act)
2. Communication (how you speak)
3. Physical Appearance (how you look)
Gravitas is about cultivating the capacity to have "grace under fire". As a leadership coach who studies neuroscience and how we perform under pressure, recovering center
is something my clients derive great benefit from with increasing impact. I teach gravitas through Leadership Embodiment workshops
and one on one coaching.
We know communication is over 70% non-verbal so this element is full of nuances. Hewlett is not only describing speaking skills, but also observation skills like being able to read an audience well. Being able to use the language of your business and speaking with conviction are key characteristics for successful communication.
The third element is about physical appearance. If you are not intentional about how you look in an effort to cultivate executive presence, it can detract from effectiveness in the first two elements. So don't undermine the cultivation of executive presence by wearing "casual Friday" outfits 5 days a week.
I hope this short overview about executive presence gives you food for thought as you move towards the end of the year and ponder how to take your leadership to the next level. Sometimes it isn't the technical skills we need to cultivate, but instead the softer leadership skills to help prepare us for professional advancement.
If you're curious about how to cultivate more executive presence, then reach out to us. We would love to help you, your team or your organization.