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In Part One of “How to Enhance Your Executive Presence,” you made an inventory of your strengths and received feedback on how others view your strengths. Any surprises?

If you chose to take one of the tests (links provided in Part One) you have some very concise descriptions that will help you as you enhance your executive presence. A concise description of your strengths and traits is an important foundation of self-awareness, whether using your list of strengths, using results of a test, or creating a combined list. This awareness allows you to build confidence in YOU.

Be Aware of What They Need

The next step to enhancing your presence is to be aware of the needs of your colleagues and leaders in your work environment. Let’s face it; people expect some common behaviors from their leaders. What are these common behaviors?

If you work for a large corporation, they often have leadership characteristics or behaviors outlined and available through human resources. These are often called “competency models.” Use the information your company already has as a tool to help you within your firm.

If a competency model is not available from HR, there are several studies conducted over the past ten years that outline what behaviors and characteristics that people with presence exhibit. Let’s explore the findings from a few of them.

Know It When You See It

In 2012, the Center for Talent and Innovation reported the outcomes from a study of over 260 senior executives. They organized their findings into three pillars of executive presence.

#1. Gravitas – Behaviors included maintaining confidence and “grace under fire,” acting decisively, showing integrity, demonstrating emotional intelligence, establishing a polished reputation, projecting vision.
#2. Communication – Behaviors included great speaking skills, ability to command a room, ability to read an audience.
#3. Appearance– Look like a leader: good grooming, physical attractiveness.

While appearance did not rank the highest in importance, appearance stood out as a fast derailer.

The 2013 Gartner CIO Study reported findings of seven traits of executive presence from over 2,000 c-suite executives.

Composure: Being self-aware and understanding others.
Connection: Making others feel comfortable based on how you communicate with them.
Charisma: Drawing people to you based on focusing on others and listening.
Confidence: Ensuring that what you say and how you say it is supported by good posture, eye contact, use of your voice, facial expression and grooming.
Credibility: Speaking with strength and conviction minus filler language and minimizers, i.e., “Ummm,” “uh,” “like…,” “sort of,” “this may not work but…”
Clarity: Communicating the fundamentals in 10 words of less.
Conciseness: Conveying your message with brevity.

Sorting through these and other studies, it is clear that people expect leaders to show the depth of character and self-control, communicate with precision, and look and act the part.

How Do You Compare?

With the outline of your strengths and traits in hand, you are ready to compare your strengths and traits with what your team or organization needs to perceive your executive presence. Place your strengths and traits side by side with the description of executive presence behaviors and traits. What strengths stand out right away and align with what people need to see from professionals with presence? Highlight where you align. If you see some disconnects, match the needs up to your closest strength(s).

You will also notice gaps between your current strengths or traits and the traits people perceive as executive presence. Be aware of them, but keep your focus on your alignment. We first enhance our presence building on our strengths, and then we can make small adjustments to help close the gaps.

Awareness is Strength

You are on the road to strengthening your executive presence as you are aware of your strengths and aware of the expected behaviors of leaders. Here’s an example of how one person completed this awareness exercise and found she had good base strengths and traits that she could build upon to demonstrate better executive presence.

Lisa received a big promotion to executive director. She knew she was a good one-on-one communicator but struggled when it came to giving presentations to groups of eight or more people. Her strengths included confidently communicating her message to small groups, creating a compelling vision for her group, and connecting with people. She compared her strengths to what was expected as an executive director with executive presence. It was clear that she had a gap with her communication skills in front of a group. Before she explored her strengths (on her own and gathering feedback), she believed she could not speak in front of a large group. After going through the exercise, she gained more confidence than ever before. She had relevant strengths to build upon. She was determined to better leverage those strengths to better communicate in front of a group.

In the next installment of “How to Enhance Your Executive Presence (Part Three),” we will dig into the three critical components of how we express our strengths and traits to better create a positive perception of our executive presence. We will see what Lisa did after she became aware of her strengths and the need to better communicate in front of a group.

What strengths did you discover so far about yourself?

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