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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Executive 'Presence'

Toss a stone into a pond and watch what happens. The ripples move out from the centre growing larger as they swell before receding into the glassy surface of the water. There's something familiar and predictable about this pattern in nature. But how does it apply to corporate leadership?

If you are in a position of authority, influence or leadership those closest to you have the clearest sense of the motivations behind your actions and words. Beyond this inner circle, employees in your organisation interpret your words or actions without knowledge of your motivations, and therefore, without proper context. Here lies the greatest area of risk in communications.

How then can you influence the way you are perceived beyond your inner circle?

Executive presence. You know it when you see it. That elusive "it" quality shared by great leaders throughout history. The way they walk onto a stage as though they belong there; or into a room as if everyone is a friend. They are polished, positive, direct, professional and authentic. They look you in the eye, and they seem to understand. Not only do they come off as strong, confident and in control, they are wonderful to be around! When you're with a leader who's got "it", YOU feel strong, confident and more in control…inspired, really.

What leaders with great executive presence understand that we can all learn from is the concept of "the ripple effect". How a common sum of qualities and competencies that create this "presence" can impact hundreds if not thousands of people in your organisation…even if you never personally interact with them.

No one is born with it. Every leader can adopt the common attributes of great executive presence. Every leader can influence the way they are perceived throughout their organisation.

It's a simple as 7 key elements:

Substance - Whether in verbal or written communication, make sure your message and language are clear, concise, interesting, informative and intelligent.

Personal Style - Your wardrobe and grooming speaks volumes about your leadership presence. Make sure you dress in a polished, appropriate manner and set the standard for your organisation.

Physical Presence - If you've ever received bad news from someone who is smiling, you know how important body language and facial expressions are to clear communications. Align your non-verbal and verbal messages, and be sure to demonstrate energy, vitality, confidence and ease.

Vocal Skill - Like body language, the way you use your voice will dramatically impact interpretation of your meaning. Control the way others receive your message through tone, pace, volume and inflection. Maintain a clear, pleasant, expressive and confident tone.

Manners/Etiquette - Have you ever noticed how great leaders seem to demonstrate elegance, finesse and ease regardless of the challenges they deal with? They understand the rules of business etiquette, and they respect those rules. They are gracious, grateful, generous and thoughtful.

Listen, listen and listen more - Be receptive to new information, listen attentively and make yourself available. Encourage expression by engaging when others speak and listening without judgment.

Work Environment - Consider the impact of your own personal space - if you're suit is custom tailored, your car is a fine European model, but your desk is a cluttered mess, what will be remembered most? Your building, office and desk should be clean, organised, pleasant and inviting, reflecting your professionalism.


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