Executive Presence Part 1
How many times in corporate Nigeria have we come across Executives who, though generally known to be brilliant individuals, come across as bland and colourless upon closer interaction? When such people make speeches, they bore all the listeners to sleep. When people describe such execs, they say things like “He’s so low-key he’s invisible” “How did he get to this position?” What the executive being described above lacks ‘Executive Presence’!
Executive Presence has that hard to define quality to it but is usually easy to see. It is the ‘wow factor’, the head-turning, impossible to ignore presence and most people that are on top of their game possess. Some common traits of those who do project Executive Presence are: they radiate confidence, poise and authority; they know how to connect with others; and, most important, they build on their own strengths and are genuine. Jenna Goudreau describes it as the ability to project gravitas–confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness as its core characteristics. Furthermore, communication—including speaking skills, assertiveness and the ability to read an audience or situation—and appearance contribute to a person’s perceived executive presence.
According to a new study by the Center for Talent Innovation, a non-profit research organization in New York quoted by Jenna Goudreau in her Forbes Magazine article, being perceived as leadership material is essential to being promoted into leadership positions. In fact, the 268 senior executives surveyed said “executive presence” counts for 26% of what it takes to get promoted. Executive Presence is therefore one area that needs to be worked on by Executives as they transit from middle management to ‘C’ level management. It is key that it is developed because when you have it, people want to promote you, do business with you, give you better assignments, and recommend you to others.
According to Suzanne Bates, Executive Presence creates a strong personal brand. The brand is the message or impression that comes to mind when people see you, hear of you or think about you. In business, you need to build your brand with everyone – your colleagues, boss, direct reports, clients or customers; because it’s impossible to meet and know everyone well. Brand gives you word of mouth that is a tremendous advantage
A key ingredient of Executive presence is authenticity. It is important to be authentic to be believed and respected, but it isn’t enough for you to know you’re authentic on the inside nor is it enough if you just appear externally authentic in your communication and behaviours. It’s essential to have both internal and external authenticity to manifest truly authentic Executive Presence. Internal authenticity is meaning what you say. External authenticity is saying what you mean.
Paul Aldo outlines nine qualities people who have excellent executive presence consistently project to their audience:
- Candour:The appearance of honesty, through the willingness and skill to constructively tell it like it is.
- Clarity:The ability to tell your story in an intuitively clear and compelling way.
- Openness:The appearance of not prejudging, of being willing to consider another’s point of view.
- Passion:The expression of commitment, motivation, and drive that shows people you really believe in what you do.
- Poise:The look of sophistication, conveying a background of education and experience.
- Self-confidence:The air of assurance, such that others know you have the required strength and resolve.
- Sincerity:The conviction of believing in and meaning what you say.
- Thoughtfulness:The projection of thinking or of having thought through something before responding.
- Warmth:The appearance of being accessible to others and of being interested in them.
…. to be continued