The 3 Pillars of Executive Presence
Many people think that executive presence is about presenting yourself as if you were a powerful and confident executive. It’s actually about presenting yourself as if you were powerful, confident and caring. Three pillars of executive presence are the way you look, the way you act and the way you speak. While these pillars come more naturally to some folks than to others, they are all pillars that you can learn.
The Way You Look
Can you be taken seriously if you don’t look the part It’s possible, but you have a much longer road ahead of you. For men, or perhaps more precisely, white men, appearance is a small part of executive presence. The picture is more complicated for women and minorities, who have a smaller window of what is ïacceptableï in a business world dominated by white men. Women are criticized for having too-long nails, showy nails, for not painting their nails at all. It’s a delicate balance that comes with a lot of contradiction and confusion, and right now, women and minorities do not really have the ability to dress (nor speak and act) in a way that is true to their selves and cultures. The good news is that as more women and minorities step into leadership, and business becomes more global, the window of what is acceptable appearance is becoming, well, more accepting. In fact, the business world at large has become more aware of certain double standards. Consequently, many companies and organizations are gradually creating new definitions of what leaders must look like, act like and talk like.
For now, whether you are male or female, here are a few tips to get you started. Buy a few pairs of black and dark-colored pants. Wear a variety of tops; jackets for women are memorable and convey gravitas. When you think of Hillary Clinton, chances are you picture her in a jacket because that is what she tends to wear. Men do not need to wear a tie with a button-down shirt every day, but when they don’t, they should don a blazer or nice sweater. When you feel good about how you look, you’ll act more confidently.
The Way You Act
Projecting confidence, decisiveness, poise and grace under pressure are some important characteristics of executive presence. So are body language cues such as strong posture (standing tall), keeping eye contact, shaking hands firmly and displaying passion and enthusiasm.
Some of the best moments of grace under pressure have come when an executive was admitting to a huge mistake. Take Tim Melville-Ross, for example. As chief executive of Nationwide, the top building society in the United Kingdom, he committed an error that could have devastated his career; he initiated a business practice that he knew was grossly unfair to customers. To make remedies, he fired the director who advised him to implement that practice, and he penned an apology letter to the London Times. He took responsibility for his wrongdoings and encouraged readers to write to him. Through this act of coming clean, Melville-Ross showed that he could be trusted. Customers began to trust Nationwide again. Even true leaders make mistakes, but they own up to them.
What should you take away from this example At least one thing: executive presence is not just about in-person interactions. Actions do not always take place face to face or through televised interviews. It’s also how you address customers and employees in emails. It’s how you talk about people when you think you are with your most trusted confidants. To succeed, cultivate character, authenticity and integrity.
The Way You Talk
The way you talk has a tremendous effect on how people perceive you. For instance, someone who frequently says, ïI thinkï conveys indecisiveness and not enough executive presence. Speak firmly, clearly and just loud enough so that folks can hear you. End your sentences; do not trail off. Use active voice instead of passive voice. While some of these tips apply only to in-person interactions, many apply to other spheres of communication as well.
Do you have a big presentation to give Before you enter the room, compose yourself. Take a deep breath, pat your hair, and remind yourself to slow down. One more thing; sometimes you convey even more gravitas when you are silent. Make friends with silence; ever heard someone ramble to fill space Sounds unprofessional, right So, leave gaps here and there when you speak so that people hang onto your words.
As you cultivate executive presence and make all-star hires for your business, take advantage of the tools here at Mighty Recruiter to help.