Executive Presence, a familiar term to many these days and a desirable characterization for those who exhibit it. Executive Presence is the ability to project gravitas–confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness. To aspire to greater degrees of executive presence is understandable, as it has been suggested that advancement and opportunity often hinges upon it. In fact, the Conference Board indicates that of the factors considered for promotion at the senior levels, executive presence accounts for 23% of the consideration.
While a rather banal term, the absence of it is anything but boring. For those who lack presence, situational navigation, relationships and professional advancement can prove difficult. The opportunity to shine in front of colleagues that is missed due to overwhelming nerves; the difficult conversation with peers or significant others that results in retreat or emotional meltdowns; the negotiation with superiors or those in authority that leaves one confused and frustrated are all instances where emotions, triggered by some event, word or perceived threat, overwhelm the prefrontal cortex leaving the individual behaving like Barney Fife trying to get a bullet in the chamber of his six shooter.
Executive presence is not arrogance, a fine suit (although it can help), a title or position. It’s not controlling others or commanding the attention and acquiescence of others. Executive presence is a result of an internal ok-ness that comes with being comfortable in your own skin, warts and all. It is a peace that allows one to navigate and collaborate in a manner that shows and garners respect. So, if you don’t currently possess the level of presence you desire, or if situations and circumstances create anxiety and stress that throws you off balance, how do you develop it? Some thoughts to consider:
1) When you feel the emotional angst rising due to some trigger, pause and clarify whatever was really said or done by asking a question – this gives you time to reset, reframe and better evaluate what the real question or intention was – then respond.
2) If its nerves due to situational discomfort, recognize that others don’t have a clue that you are nervous and won’t unless you let them know, so fake it until you make it.
3) If the anxiety comes from a sense that the spotlight has been placed on you, shift your focus to others and what it is that they need. When our focus in on us, negative self talk can leave us anxious and feeling inadequate. Shifting our attention to the needs of others reduces that by focusing our attention on their needs not ours.
4) The greatest fear of most (if not all men/women) is not “measuring up” or being “found out”. If everyone shares this fear at some level then spend your time helping them feel better about themselves and quit worrying about yourself – they’re not.
As with all personal development, it’s a journey and there is much more to the development of presence, composure and confidence. The thoughts presented above will begin to raise your awareness of how it affects you emotionally and behaviorally and hopefully provide some tools for beginning to establish a greater sense of confidence for yourself. To achieve lasting presence that relies less on “in the moment” reminders and management, it will be necessary to unpack and reconcile your fears and underlying beliefs about your “self” that contribute to your Ok-ness. Visit our blog often for guidance and supporting resources on developing the presence you desire.