Patricia was considering the candidates from the final round of interviews for her open senior manager position. She asked Ron, her Human Resources partner, to review the applicants with her as she made her final decision. Both candidates were well qualified with the skills and experience needed for the role, and had a track record of execution. But, the success of this person was largely going to depend on their ability to gain respect, trust, and influence. As they discussed Shannon’s fit for the job, Patricia expressed her concerns. “Shannon certainly has the credentials for this role, but I don’t think she has the executive presence necessary to drive our strategic priorities.” Ron tended to agree with her. “Yes, I know. Something about her makes me feel she’s just not strong enough for this senior level position.” Though Patricia and Ron agreed on this gut feeling, they couldn’t exactly put their finger on why they felt that way.
“Executive presence” is a commonly used, yet nebulous term. Executive presence often is thought of as just your ‘presence’, or the way you carry yourself. But it’s so much more. People often use it without being able to articulate exactly what it really means or how to fix it. It’s so challenging to describe executive presence because it’s not a single dimension.
What is Executive Presence?
Executive presence is a combination of demonstrable outcomes and soft skills that come together to comprise your complete package. Executive presence is the leadership or executive level capacity others see in you. It is your package of business savvy, relationship savvy, and professional style. Even if you are an emerging leader, others can sense your executive presence capability.
Executive Presence is comprised of four key dimensions:
- Business Intelligence – Your application of business & industry knowledge in your work.
- Business Impact – Your track record of impact on company growth and key priorities.
- Relationships – Your ability to build strategic relationships & influence others.
- Reputation – Your personal brand around your outcomes, leadership style, and professionalism.
Why Executive Presence Matters
When the combination of these four dimensions are strong, your executive presence will be identified as strong. You also will feel confident, and be seen as both confident and competent. Leaders are expected to be well-rounded in their business acumen, meaningful contributions to business outcomes, and leadership skill. Your executive presence shows your ability to fit the character of these expectations at successive levels in your career.
Executive presence is critical in the success of your career. The impressions you leave can directly impact your ability to move up in the organization, or to be trusted with important responsibilities. It impacts your ability to earn Invited Reach, where leaders reach out on your behalf as advocates and sponsors to make opportunities available to you.
Who can you think of that has strong executive presence. What are the characteristics that give you that impression? How do you believe executive presence may have impacted their success?
Like your technical skills, executive presence is a skill that takes work, practice and commitment. Your executive presence will be evaluated. Make sure it’s on your list of things to work on.
Check out the upcoming articles in this series for insights on what’s missing in your executive presence, and for tips on making significant improvements.
Building an executive presence is important to accelerate your career, a strong executive presence also extends your invited reach. Download ‘Reach’, chapter 7 of my book to find out more.