I am sure at some point in your professional careers you’ve heard the term Executive Presence (EP), but what exactly is Executive Presence? Do you possess it? And how does one acquire the look and presence of an authentic executive? I remember one evening I was researching the topic of women and leadership and came across a thought provoking, life changing speech given by Act-1 Founder and billion-dollar business mogul Janice Bryant Howroyd via INC.com entitled How to Create Your Own Dream Job (check it out here). I was mesmerized, engaged from start to finish, but most importantly – I was inspired to act. Was it her poised ability to communicate and articulate her thoughts intelligently, concisely and effortlessly; was it the fabulous, white, Trapeze dress and nude heels she wore that seemed to flow perfectly with every movement she made on stage or was it her natural candor and humbleness to share her journey of transitioning from being a small-town girl to an influential entrepreneur? Ladies, it was a strategic and natural combination off all of the above – known as gravitas. Some women naturally possess it, and some have to work towards to it, but do not despair it is a learnable skill all executive women have mastered overtime.
We all recognize it in the leaders we admire and look to for inspiration personally and professionally. Sylvia Ann Hewlett author of Executive Presence describes gravitas as “that certain je ne sais quoi quality that some people have that makes other people judge them born leaders… They live intentionally, guided by a set of values or a vision for their lives that compels them to seize every chance to put their convictions into practice.” Aside from looking the part of an executive – in whatever profession you choose to pursue one must know how to authentically connect and lead by example through one’s intuition often referred to as one’s emotional intelligence; which is the ability to step into any business environment and command a room respectfully with your presence, poise, approachable sensibility and warming intelligence. Does EP only apply to the business environment or does it extend past the boardroom meetings and client dinners? Of course, it does. What I have learned through observation and applying the principles of EP within my own life – especially during a difficult transitional phase of life I was undergoing – I had to learn to step into my own truth regardless of how terrifying it was and methodically reinvent myself from the inside out. Reconnecting with my personal core values and embracing my talent and purpose in life continues to influence how I carry myself, interact and help others (my clients) rediscover their passion and purpose for their own lives.
As Howroyd brilliantly states in her speech “Be where you say you’re going to be, when you’re going to be there and how you’re going to be there.” When planning your career path as an entrepreneur, C-level executive or creative professional map out where you see yourself personally and professionally in the next 3-5 years and when you finally do arrive at that moment that you initially envisioned for yourself how will it look and feel to you. Another way to interpret Bryant’s mantra is learning to be present in every aspect of your life consistently and authentically and while you are at it – connect with others along the way. Ultimately, as I noted above, understanding and reevaluating what you bring to the table in terms of your talent, skills, life experiences and learning how to strategically package those qualities into a viable and – authentic brand – will eventually put you ahead by leaps and bounds; thus, giving you that extra je ne sais quoi in business and life.
Below are a few tips to consider when implementing your EP game plan.
- Reconnect with your personal core values and assess if they have been instrumental in supporting your goals.
- What is your style of communication? Understanding how to communicate effectively, but authentically will help you to connect on a deeper level with those you interact with both personally and professionally.
- Have you invested time into building your personal brand? And if so, does it telegraph your personal core values?
- What are you most passionate about in life? And does it show in your interactions with others who you connect with on a daily basis?
- What type of leader do you aspire to be? A leader doesn’t necessarily have to be at the forefront of everything. Behind the scenes influencers often make great leaders because they know how to share their success, by acknowledging other individual’s talents and skills before their own.
- The image of a leader who authentically evokes executive presence is uniquely interconnected to an identifiable style personality; the essence of who you are visually telegraphed in such a way that it influences and inspires those around you positively.
If you are interested in learning more about up-leveling your executive presence then I highly suggest you check out our Executive Image and Style Development Program.
Melissa T. Jarred