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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Positive Leadership: Building Your Leadership Presence

Here are some thoughts on how you can build your leadership presence:

How You Feel

Be yourself. You need to feel comfortable and confident. The best way to do that consistently is to be who you really are. Putting on an executive-like facade does not work nearly as well as simply being comfortable in your own skin and projecting confidence.

Confidence. You don’t need to have a big, showy personality to have executive presence. Having a strong presence is about confidence, not personality. Even if you are a quiet, humble person it’s about putting your best self out there consistently, not changing your personality.


If you can’t be confident, be fearless. Don’t back off when you are not confident. You’ll come off much worse if you are tentative and worried about what you are presenting. 

Practice and prepare. If you are not comfortable in the moment, then prepare. Don't feel bad about practicing ahead of time. Script what you will say and rehearse it. You will be more confident in the moment, and you will get more confident over time, with practice.

Never mind the details. Don't wait until you feel like know everything. Disconnect "knowing everything" from having executive presence. If you spend all your time learning the details, you will not gain executive presence. You won't be stepping up and putting yourself out there, and to make matters worse, people will always see you in the weeds.

How You Look

Quality matters. It's not about fashion; it's about looking like you care. No one ever felt more confident by wearing a cheap suit. Put some effort in.

Remove distractions. Make sure nothing about your appearance distracts from your competence. Take stock, get feedback. Make changes.

How You Behave

Lead the room. Don't just be in room. Lead the room.

Be fast on your feet. Part of executive presence is being able to actively listen and respond, and not become defensive under attack. You also have more presence if you can be flexible and don't always need to stick to the script.

Be Present! Part of executive presence, is “presence”. You need to put yourself out there. Don’t stay in the shadows. Speak up. Have something to contribute. Be personable. Be the one to ask key questions or put forth recommendations. Don't talk just to talk, but don't be silent just to avoid risk. Step up.

Fit in Socially. You need to be able to fit in to higher level networks. Get over being awe-struck, and find a way to personally connect with people as higher levels. If you can't fit in socially, you will appear junior. You need to make others comfortable that you belong there.

Never Appear Overwhelmed

Ease and grace. Although this is part of how you behave, it’s worth emphasising because appearing overwhelmed is inversely proportional to executive presence. You need to find a way to deal with 'overwhelm' privately, and have others see you as calm and in control. If you appear overwhelmed, no one will see you as ready for more.


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