The meek might be on track to inherit the earth but they're a ways off from inheriting a position at the head of the conference room table. Meek is simply not an adjective that is generally thought of when you think of someone commanding leadership, as I discussed in a post on the 9 tactics leaders use to command a room.

Power, poise, and purpose, yes. Presence? Yes!

Growing up in a large firm with a strong sense of history and culture, I heard a lot about executive presence--what it was, who had it, and what any aspiring leader would need to do to get it. Here's what I found.

What is executive presence?

Executive presence is the combination of communication skills, technical competencies, perspective, and temperament that instill a sense of confidence in a leader's viewpoints and decisions. For those seeking leadership positions--especially in the C-suite--executive presence is an essential set of qualities needed to progress, influence others, and get results. Often, it's getting a strong sense of who's in charge the moment you walk into a room--even before people introduce themselves and share their titles.

How do you enhance your executive presence?

The tricky thing about coaching people on building their presence is that, while there are similar characteristics that make up an executive, each person adds their own unique personality and perspective to the equation.

The beauty of this approach is that building these skills isn't just reserved for those in titled leadership positions. You can start working on each of them now. In fact, building a strong executive presence might just be the differentiator you need to get noticed and get picked for future opportunities.

Here are six essential things to pay attention to when building your own executive presence:

  1. Look the part. Executives in your organization likely dress on a similar level of formality. Whether that's business attire or sweats, they set the norm for their circle of peers. Noticing those trends and mirroring them in your own wardrobe is a starting place. Of course, bringing your own sense of style along is key.
  2. Have an opinion. Leaders speak up on issues that matter to them when they have the opportunity. So should you. If you're concerned about thinking up something relevant or if you like to have time to mull over points before forming an opinion, that's great, but do a little research ahead so you have some constructive and ready-made feedback to contribute.
  3. When entering a room, take a moment before flying through the door to grab a seat to notice who's in the room. Pick the seat you want and take it, intentionally.
  4. Ask great questions. Being known for asking great questions about how an issue will impact customers, staff, suppliers, partners, etc., will not only help you form opinions about key topics, you'll be noticed for having the interests of important stakeholders in mind.
  5. Sit up straight with your feet firmly on the ground. Focus on projecting your voice to the furthest person in the room without shouting. Speaking too quietly for everyone to hear and being asked to speak up can be embarrassing. It also erodes others' sense of how confident you feel in your point. Our body language not only impacts what others think, it impacts how confident we feel. Check out Amy Cuddy's TED Talk on power posing to learn more.
  6. Avoid qualifying statements such as "I think..." "I'm sure you already thought of this but..." and "I don't know if this is where we're going with this, but... ."

If you have aspirations of earning a promotion within your organization, starting to build your executive presence now will be a tremendous advantage in the future.

Published on: May 23, 2016