Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Win the War of the Mind!
Is strong executive presence the ability to control emotions and sense emotions in others?
Or, is executive presence about the ability to inspire confidence? Inspiring confidence in your subordinates that you’re the leader they want to follow. Inspiring confidence among peers that you’re capable and reliable. Most importantly, inspiring confidence among senior leaders.
Perhaps, executive presence is simply the ability to engender trust in people through confidence, consistency and calm in chaos? Many industry professionals say that it's the ability to give off a general sense of poise, confidence, decisiveness and dignity.
There are many definitions of executive presence. Often, its definition relies on what the individual defining it values. In an increasingly diverse world, executive presence will look very different from one executive to another. However, the constant, is building the confidence of others that you can step up as a leader when times get tough. It boils down to confidence and self-regulation. A security in ones’ value and an ability to regulate ones’ emotions and behavior.
According to Arlin Cuncic, MA “people who are adept at self-regulating tend to see the good in others. They view challenges as opportunities and maintain open communication. They're clear about their intentions and act in accordance with their values. They put forth their best effort, keep going through difficult times, remain flexible and adapt to situations. They take control of situations when necessary, and can calm themselves when upset and cheer themselves when feeling down.”
Behaviorally, self-regulation is the ability to act in your long-term best interest, consistent with your deepest values. Self-regulation is difficult when focused on feelings, simply because that focus amplifies, magnifies, and distorts them making regulation difficult. Consistent self-regulation requires focus on your deepest values rather than feelings.
To achieve greater consistency in self-regulation, identify and clarify your values. You may have a sense of what you value, but take the time to complete this exercise and write them down. Your values become the guardrails of behavior that allow you to manage yourself with a greater sense of purpose.
Secondly, recognize that everyone has a choice in how to react to situations. While you may perceive that the situation is unfair, it's not the circumstance, but how you react to it that matters most. Become aware of your feelings and emotions associated with different situations or triggers. Do you feel like running away from a difficult situation? Do you feel like lashing out in anger at someone who has hurt you? Monitor your body to get clues about how you are feeling and what your resulting behavior is. For example, a rapidly increasing heart may be a sign that you are entering a state of anger or panic.
Two additional practices may also contribute to the improvement of confidence and self-regulation. The first, cognitive reframing, involves changing your thought patterns. This is achieved by allowing you to reinterpret a situation in order to change your emotional response to it. This reinterpretation allows you to respond differently based upon a new, less threatening perception. The second practice is Mindfulness. According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), mindfulness is "the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally." By engaging in skills such as focused breathing and gratitude, mindfulness enables us to put some space between ourselves and our reactions, leading to better focus and feelings of calmness and relaxation.
Ultimately, we can all benefit from these practices and situationally moderate our behavior to show up with greater confidence and respond more effectively across a multitude of situations. We should strive to restore balance by identifying and focusing on deeply held values, rather than transient emotions. See beyond the discomfort at the moment to the larger picture. Then, act in a way that aligns with self-regulation and gain in presence.