Executive Presence

A group of us had a discussion this week around leadership and more specifically, 'executive presence'. This is one of those things that is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. I also think that the lack of 'executive presence' is one thing that holds people back in their careers, even if they have the raw ability to do what needs to get done.

These are the qualities that I observe, in those that have 'it':

1) Confidence- They have the aura of "Often wrong, but never in doubt", in terms of tone and attitude. They command and attract the audience, not by volume nor the amount that they speak, but by the optimism/confidence present in their statements, actions, and body language.

2) Preparation- They are the smartest person in the room on the topic of discussion. When asked questions, they don't stumble, pass, nor provide bad data. They are prepared and they give concise answers.

3) Verbal communication- clarity of speech, with the minimum number of words, with maximum impact. Always moving the conversation forward. Never resorting to arguing.

4) Written communication- If they are presenting, the charts are a backdrop...not something that they are reading. In fact, they tend to have more whitespace than words on their charts.

5) Well-read- They are worldly in their knowledge. They can comment on anything from the economy, to business specifics, to even pop culture and sports.

6) Motivational- They make people feel good, by virtue of having talked to them. They are they person that you are happy to see in a meeting.

7) Compassionate, but not combative- They understand dissenting opinions, listen to them, empathize with them...but do not resort to arguing. Instead, they present their case with facts, not emotion. And hear and respect the other views.

I believe that if you have constantly increase your confidence (#1). People that can then bridge that to #6 and #7, are the ones that really stick out.

The question becomes: How do you teach this? Is it a learned skill?

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