Demystifying Executive Presence
The gap between where we are and where we want to be is often due to a lack of executive presence. The good news is, it’s something we can build.
First, let’s demystify this elusive concept. We hear “executive presence” mentioned so often, but what exactly is it?
Executive presence is a way of being that inspires others to follow you and take action.
It’s the message we broadcast that communicates authority and trustworthiness, and that ultimately allows us to command respect, higher pay, a promotion, or a following.
It’s often thought that executive presence is a privilege reserved for senior executives, but I believe it can be embodied by anyone regardless of job rank, age, gender, or cultural background.
So can we cultivate it?
Yes! To do so, let’s deconstruct it.
Through my experience coaching and interviewing business leaders as well my own 20-year career in business, I’ve found that executive presence boils down to ranking high along the following 4 vectors that I call the Connected Framework, or 4Cs: Competence, Confidence, Courage, and Class.
Competence is broader than simply being an expert in a certain field. It’s also about problem-solving, regular skillset upgrading, seeing trends, analyzing large amounts of information, making important decisions, and having emotional competency. Competence comes from learning by doing and being willing to fail along the way.
Confidence, surprisingly, doesn’t typically come from job titles, degrees, awards, or other external forms of validation. In fact, many smart, accomplished people lack confidence and feel like imposters. Confidence comes from the inner embodied feeling of being comfortable in our own skin.
Courage requires us to overwrite our biology and step out of the familiarity we call the “comfort zone”. Our brain is wired to keep us “safe” by staying in the same familiar situations. Whenever we venture off into unchartered territory or risk failing or show vulnerability, we meet strong inner resistance. But overcoming this resistance is the path to true success.
Having Class is not only about dressing to impress. Although looking healthy and well signals to others that we like ourselves and inspires them to like us, class is about being calm and collected in difficult situations, having empathy, and having a big vision.
How do we start growing across the 4 Cs?
The first step may seem counterintuitive. Instead of looking for external strategies of upleveling executive presence, we need to look inward and take an honest inventory of our strengths, blind spots, fears, and belief systems. I often say that if executive presence were a tree, the roots would be self-awareness.
I’m curious: Which factors do you see as most vital for building a strong executive presence?
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