Executive presence

By September 16, 2019 September 17th, 2019 Executive Coaching

Many of the factors that set leaders apart are core personality traits

If you are in a position of leadership, it’s likely that you have displayed these traits and they helped to get you to where you are. 

If you don’t feel like you have some of these leadership traits, you might be wondering how you’ll ever manage to climb the rungs of that corporate ladder and we’re here to help you with that.

While many of the things that make an effective leader are natural traits and abilities, there are a few areas that can only be learned. 

There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding this topic but there doesn’t need to be. In fact, we’re here to strip it away.

As with everything in business, if you’ve been around long enough you’ve seen the good and the bad. You’ve heard people described as having executive presence. You’ve certainly been able to realize when someone in a position of leadership does not command the same authority as others, largely due to the fact that they do not have executive presence.

But even though you’ve seen it in action, what exactly is executive presence and why should you care? 

In this chapter, we are going to delve deeper into this topic. We’ll take a look at what executive presence is and why it matters. We’ll discuss the behaviors and traits that define executive presence. We will serve up some tips to help you assess your executive presence as well as how to further develop and build on what you’ve already got on place.

Let’s get started!

What Is Executive Presence?

As with most things in the arena of business leadership, if you ask 100 different people what defines executive presence, you’ll get 100 different answers. 

Most people can’t quite put their finger on it  because executive presence comes from people who just have some sort of “it” factor, a certain je ne sais quoi or gravitas that seems to make them an excellent leader.

When you walk into a sales meeting or are interacting with a group in some way, you will generally find yourself drawn to a certain person. A person who commands respect, who exudes presence, who just seems like the leader.

This person has executive presence. 

In studies, researchers have found that many different views of executive presence including he actor’s view, the corporate view, and the psychologist’s view.

In the actor’s view, it is believed that executive presence comes from being able to connect with people on a deep level making it easier to motivate them. 

The corporate view reasons that executive presence comes from gravitas, communication, and appearance. A person must have poise and authentic confidence that projects a certain image to others. This image is what convinces others that we are leadership material, that it’s safe to follow us.

The psychologist’s view says that if you are in tune with your innermost self and represent your true self with confidence, others appreciate your authenticity and are likely to follow your leadership.

The reality is, all three of these views coming together forms the strongest executive presence. When looking at the actor’s view, you have to look back on your experiences and figure out how they shaped you as a leader. You can use these experiences to connect with others and build a presence with them. The corporate and psychologist’s views encourage us to take a look at who we truly are and how we are presenting ourselves to others. Without authenticity, no one will want to follow our leadership.

Do you inspire confidence in others? 

In your team? 

Among your subordinates? 

Have you done something to convince them to follow you, to trust in your leadership? 


Executive presence really hinges on how you control the room. What impressions you give to others and what effect you have on the people around you are also important. 

In leadership, you want to be the person who commands a room. 

If you are not an exceedingly confident person, you need to find a way to “Fake it till you make it.” You need to dress the part but not in a fake way – remember, authenticity is key.

But why does this matter anyway?

Why Do You Need Executive Presence?

In a recent survey of CIOs, Gartner found that executive presence is the number 2 leadership trait that makes a marked difference in a person’s career.

Executive presence isn’t only about inspiring confidence in people who work alongside you on your team, though. To be put in positions of higher esteem, you must also convince senior leaders that you are worth betting on. You must show them that you have potential in leadership. 

If you want a promotion, to get assigned to a high-profile sales team, to work on the influential research and development team, to climb the ladder in any way and gain opportunity… well, you need to inspire confidence. You need to make others believe in you.

Senior leadership will be making determinations about these positions when you are not around, which is why it’s so important that you make a striking impression on them when you are in their presence. You want the VP to remember that you are the one who had confidence and charisma, that you are the one who commanded the meeting regarding the new project. 

When senior leadership sees that you have executive presence, they are much more likely to give you opportunities. When it comes to placing people in leadership roles, they want people who can encourage others to follow them to get things done and that’s why it is vital that you start to command that attention long before senior leadership knows your name.

There are many people who, in spite of their lack of leadership abilities, have made it to the C-Suite. This is thanks to their executive presence. Unfortunately, many people who are excellent leaders will never make it to the top floor because they have not developed an executive presence.

So, we’ve determined what is meant by “executive presence”, and we’ve laid out why it’s important to start building this early on. 

But, how do you build it?

Glad you asked! Let’s keep moving and look at the traits of executive presence to explain this…

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