Exude Executive Presence
CTDO Magazine

Exude Executive Presence

This is a crucial characteristic for anyone in the C-suite.

Executive presence is an essential trait for anyone aspiring to reach the ranks of the C-suite. Although a detailed definition is murky at best, most experts agree it entails some combination of how one behaves, speaks, and looks.

Talent development leaders looking to boost their executive presence should closely watch organizational leaders they respect. What qualities and characteristics do they exhibit? How do they interact with those above them, with their peers, and with their staff? How do they conduct themselves during meetings?

Also consider these executive hacks. 


Take on a power pose

We naturally expand our bodies when we feel powerful. Conversely, we naturally feel powerful when we expand our bodies. This means talent development leaders can use their physiology (their bodies) to increase their sense of power and presence.

Simply assume power poses when interacting with others. Sit or stand tall. Assume a relaxed, confident manner with your legs out or feet planted wide apart.

Lean slightly forward. Take up space by putting your arms on the table, not huddling them to your body. Remember to tilt your chin upward.

If you have an important but difficult (or nerve-wracking) event or meeting coming up, try power posing for a couple of minutes for a quick confidence boost.

Source: Amy Cuddy, professor and researcher at Harvard Business School and author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

Give the right vocal cues

It's important to remember that leading others requires more than simply being the loudest person in the room. And even when you have the perfect words to convey a message, if your tone is wrong, your message will fall flat.

Leaders with executive presence know how to harness the power of their voice to command a room and connect with others. Think about your key message and alter the inflection of your voice to emphasize specific words.

Using these ups and downs will help draw the listener's attention to what is most important to you. Be sure to avoid trailing off at the end of a sentence.

Further, filling speech with punctuation—commas and periods—gives the listener time to process your message. Vocal periods also show clarity and organization in your thoughts.

Source: Laura Sicola, linguist and founder of Vocal Impact Productions

Co-opt your inner critic

Even highly confident individuals sometimes experience temporary feelings of inadequacy. Rather than let those thoughts bring you down, co-opt your inner critic and make it a trusted advisor.

Have a conversation with your inner fears. For example, if you feel like you don't have the educational degree to qualify you for the C-suite, ask your inner voice to give you an equally true but positive statement, such as, "I have more than enough experience to do this."

Share your positive truth with a trusted mentor or colleague. This practice of believing something out loud is helpful, because while the logical side of our brains understand things abstractly, our emotional right brain won't fully believe the positive message until we practice hearing ourselves say it and receive feedback from those we trust.

Source: Dana Theus, career coach and CEO of InPower Coaching

Practice presentation skills

Leaders with executive presence are typically good at public speaking. Being able to take center stage before an executive group or large audience—and stay poised and on point—indicates you can handle yourself under pressure.

Fortunately, many talent development leaders have experience behind the podium. For those who don't, look for opportunities to hone your presentation skills, anything from team meetings to local industry events.

Rehearse major presentations until you can come off as relaxed and in command. Ask colleagues you trust to practice any potential Q&A portions, because keeping your composure will demonstrate your ability to think on your feet and project self-confidence.

Source: John Beeson, principal of Beeson Consulting and author of The Unwritten Rules: The Six Skills You Need to Get Promoted to the Executive Level

Keep calm and confident

Presence is confidence without arrogance. Truly present executives don't need to trumpet their achievements, and they don't get flustered when mishaps occur.

Instead, they have an internal resolve that enables them to deal with challenges and relationships. While no one is calm and confident all the time, one technique for tackling stressful situations is to label the emotion you're feeling.

When you notice that your body is tensing, stop and say to yourself, "Hmm, I'm feeling angry." Labeling helps to release the energy and gives you the time to become a detached observer.

Another technique is to normalize the situation. When you're invited to an event that you're feeling anxious about, tell yourself that it's normal to feel that way and that everyone else who's new probably feels the same way.

Source: David Rock, co-founder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

2 Comments
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All Awesome suggestions! I also suggest taking those consistent practices of Mindfulness during your day & prior to Speaking Engagements! With recent cries of "All Lives Matter"! Well, "Mindfulness Matters" also! As Your Mind matters, the People part will subsequently fall into place!!!
Make Your Day, A Mindful One! ~~~Rick~~~
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I offer some points of distillation to the great focus areas presented. It will be much easier and effective to stand in a place of "influence", which at the very core of leadership presence is the ability to influence others, if a leader is grounded in their "why." Simon Sinek reminds us of this. This layers into leadership presence when a leader knows what their key value is to help elevate others first-not themselves. That authenticity is what will inspire others. Energetically, Diane
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