How to Create a Strong Executive Presence – Part One S14 Ep41

What makes great leaders great?  Those who motivate and inspire others and draw a following embody a strong executive presence.  If you want to lead in innovation, strong executive presence is a must. Although it may seem an elusive quality, it’s not.  Today’s show is one of a two-part series on what defines, exemplifies, and comprises executive presence. With focus and effort, you can create a strong executive presence.


Elements of a Leader

The person with strong executive presence stands out as a leader.  Executive presence is a blend of temperament, competence, and skills that send out the right signals.  It conveys that this person is in charge, confident, and capable of leading others. Leaders with strong executive presence influence others and drive results.  To garner support for their ideas, innovation leaders should harness the elements of executive presence.

Learning through Observing

Many leaders with strong executive presence learned from mentors who modelled this quality.  My mentor, Bob Davis, a leading software executive, recruited me out of college.  I learned by observing. I watched how he conducted himself, his strategies, and his dealings with senior executives.  Bob had a servant-leader focus, an important aspect of executive presence. I benefited from working with Alex Mandl at Teligent.  Alex demonstrated strong executive presence. I observed how he engaged with others and operated. These were two great examples in my life.

Every organization is different.  Be ready to adapt and be flexible.  If you’re starting out in your career, watch senior executives.  See how they operate. This can lay the foundation for your success.

Executive Presence: Traits of Great Leaders

This two-part series is the result of my observation and experience in the innovation arena.  Creating executive presence is possible. By learning, observing and practicing, you can become an innovation leader with strong executive presence.  

The three traits discussed in this show are composure, making connections, and charisma.

Trait One: Composure

Composure is the state of being calm and in control of oneself.  The ability to remain in control and calm under pressure is a key element of executive presence.  Nobody wants to follow someone who cracks under pressure or has a fierce temper. The ability to remain composed will attract positive attention.  Letting negative emotions take over results in regret and solves nothing.

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Focus to remain in control.  Focus on the underlying issue causing the problem and how to solve it.  You win when you remain calm and focused. Some people might disengage when faced with pressures.  Do not disengage. Leaders don’t give up and retreat.

Maintain perspective to remain calm in crisis.  Reputation is at stake. Regrettable words and actions make things worse.  The effect of remaining calm under pressure can build up one’s reputation. Others will take note.

Prepare for those stressful situations.  Exercise and taking deep breathes helps calm and relax the body and mind.

Trait Two: Making Connections

Building relationships with people is integral to executive presence.  Develop the ability to read and understand people. This involves one on one conversations with people.  Through direct interaction, you can demonstrate you are a person of intelligence and helpfulness.

Here are some tips for building connections with people.

  • Extreme helpfulness
    • Build up IOUs in the bank by helping others where needed.  
    • Keep a positive balance of IOUs.
  • Make people feel special
    • Remember names
    • Be encouraging
    • Give recognition
    • Remember details, e.g. hobbies, interests
    • Keep things positive
    • Be curious about people’s life and interests outside of work
  • Have open body language
    • Show interest and attention, e.g. lean forward at meetings
    • Smile, be jovial, be upbeat
    • Be approachable, don’t fold your arms across your chest
  • Maintain regular, face to face contact with your network of people
    • Have an objective when you meet
    • Give something before asking for anything, e.g. a lead on a potential client
RELATED:   How to Create a Strong Executive Presence - Part Two S14 Ep42

I have a list of 25 people with whom I keep in contact on a regular basis.

Trait Three: Charisma

Charisma is the ability to attract, charm, and influence the people around you.  This trait helps you rouse followers and band people together in pursuit of a goal.  You may think that charisma is an innate trait, you’re either born with it or not. From firsthand experience, I know that’s not true.  When I first met Steve Jobs in the 1980s, he did not have charisma. He acquired it along the way. He went on to lead the Macintosh team that ultimately created the iPhone.  You can develop charisma.

Here are some starter points to building up charisma:

  • Have confidence
    • Do the research and prepare
    • Don’t wait for perfection, take risks
    • Have exuberance – that positive energy that gets others excited
  • Have optimism
    • Be optimistic your team can win
    • Smile, be approachable
  • Develop a voice tone that is friendly and passionate

These are three traits that can help you develop an executive presence.  In Part two, I’ll share more traits of executive presence. To make sure you don't miss it, subscribe to the show on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast.

If you know someone who could benefit from this series, why not tell them about it. Word of mouth is how we've grown our subscribers to the show since March 2005.

To hear how you can create a strong executive presence, listen to this week's show, How to Create a Strong Executive Presence – Part One.

To continue our conversation on this and topics related to innovation, creativity, leadership, career, join me in The Innovators Community. Visit  Membership is free.  The community is growing. That's where I hang out every day, answer questions, throw ideas out, contribute to other people's posts. Hop on over to The Innovators Community.

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