What is executive presence? It’s your personal book cover–the visage you use to draw people in beyond the table of contents of your life. And while judging a book by its cover may be unfair, we know that we all do it every day–so why not yield to the idea of sprucing your “cover” up. The truth is that in corporate America, doing an outstanding job simply isn’t enough anymore. You have to look the part and stand out yourself.
Ironically whenever we ruminate on the question, “What is executive presence?” we already have a subliminal notion about the answer: it’s an unspoken mystique that speaks volumes about a leader.
Your professional demeanor is a form of communication and a message in itself. Choosing to polish your executive presence is as important as any other executive decision you make. You must be intentional and strategic about your persona in the workplace in precisely the same way that you are intentional and strategic about pursuing and fulfilling the vision of your company.
Your appearance and comportment are invaluable subliminal forms of communication. But do you know what you’re saying and signaling about yourself? What do your mannerisms say about you? What elements of your bearing may be sabotaging you? Could it be your hygiene? Do you need to improve your posture? Does your wardrobe need a makeover? How is your eye contact–tentative or direct? How firm is your handshake?
Of course what you say verbally is also important, and the weight and merit of what you say is often based on how you say it. Conviction, purpose, and vision balanced with passion and enthusiasm–this is the “mix” you should pursue during every important encounter. In a meeting or on a conference call, your mien should exude authority and decisiveness.
What is executive presence? A large part of it involves having the presence of mind to know who and how you are to others–that is, how you are perceived by your colleagues. Self-awareness can be revelatory and empowering. Connecting with your audience is an essential part of becoming more self-aware. Reading your audience–their facial expressions, body language, and verbal feedback can become useful mirrors that may reflect how you’re being perceived and received.
Ultimately one of the hallmarks of authentic executive presence is knowing your audience, respecting them, and acknowledging the value of their input. Being in command is a tremendous privilege, but commanding the respect of your workers–that’s the mark of a true leader.