Command the Room: Elevate Your Executive Presence

Oct 25, 2023
Command the Room: Elevate Your Executive Presence
By: Brooke M. Dukes

Hello, executives, future moguls and corner-office contenders. You’ve probably heard the saying, "It's not what you know; it's who you know." Well, I'd like to add something to that: "It's not just who you know; it’s also how you carry yourself." Sure, knowing the right people can open up opportunities.  But how you present yourself determines how well you'll walk through those open doors. Today, let's unpack the important but often misunderstood concept of Executive Presence.

What’s Executive Presence?

Executive Presence is not about mimicking Gordon Gekko from Wolf of Wall Street;  It’s a combination of qualities, behaviors and characteristics that empower leaders to radiate confidence, gain people’s trust, and have a strong impact. This special set of traits helps you grab people's attention, make them believe in you, and communicate in a way that gets things done effectively.

Components of Executive Presence

1. Effective Communication: There are three components of effective communication?

Physical Expression: Your body's way of speaking without saying a word. Think of it as the LeBron James of communication; it accounts for 55% of how effectively you get your point across. In other words, your body language is like a non-verbal resume that you bring to every meeting, date, or awkward family gathering.

So, how do you make a killer first impression without uttering a syllable? Step one is all about posture. Stand tall as if you're a human flagpole. This isn't some animalistic ritual of marking territory, but rather your chance to say, "Hey, I'm here, and I mean business," without actually saying it.

The objective is simple but impactful: visibly assert your presence. How? Channel your inner military officer—stand tall, roll those shoulders back, and keep that head high. Basically, own the room without having to lease it.

Maintaining a confident posture doesn't only impact others; it aligns your mind and body. Our body and mind are in complete alignment. Think about your posture when you’re sad or depressed; shoulders slumped, head down, shallow breathing, arms at your sides, and a frown on your face. You look and feel defeated. Now think about your posture when you are at your happiest: head held high, shoulders back, your breathing may be heavy from excitement, arms could be waving about as you're telling your story and there's a big smile on your face. Your brain takes cues from your body. 

The next time you’re down, shift into a confident posture. This will signal your brain to change your mood.  Thus, walking into a room with a confident posture is not just for show; it's the first step to actually feeling confident.

Tone: Tone plays a pivotal role in how effectively we communicate. It's responsible for  38% of successful communication. The way you say something can often matter more than the words themselves.

Your tone can express a range of emotions - enthusiasm, confidence, and sincerity are just a few. It's crucial for conveying your actual intent, making your message more convincing and compelling. Your intent and how you say something will always speak louder than your actual words. 

Imagine your office building was on fire and you were trying to alert your colleagues in a monotone voice without showing any emotion or urgency, you'd likely not be taken seriously. People might ask questions, but you wouldn't get the immediate evacuation response that the situation demands.

Tone is not just an accessory to words; it's a powerful tool that dictates the effectiveness of your communication. Always remember, it's not just what you say, it's how you say it that truly counts.

Words: The power of communication goes beyond mere words. Although the words you use form just 7% of effective communication, they can be impactful if combined with proper body language and tone. Memorizing a speech isn't the golden ticket to captivating your audience; instead, it's how you deliver it that matters.

Imagine giving a solution-packed presentation. Even if your words are perfect, poor posture and a monotone voice can make your audience tune out. Your physical demeanor and voice tone are what draw people in or push them away.

However, words still matter in refining your executive presence. Little changes can have a big impact. Instead of using filler words like "umm," say "listen." Replace phrases like "you know" with "you'll find" to sound more authoritative

To have effective communication all three areas of communication must be consistent, and congruent.

2. Confidence: Executives who are confident show it through their abilities, decisions, and vision. This confidence and self-belief spread, making others feel confident too.

Being confident starts with believing in yourself.  The Law of Belief says that what you truly think and feel will shape your life. If you don't think you can do it, nobody else will think so either.

If you're a leader who lacks confidence, start by looking at what you think about yourself. You might be your own worst enemy by believing you can't do something.  These negative thoughts are like roadblocks that keep you from becoming the best leader you can be.  Switching these thoughts to positive ones will help you build the confidence you need. With this new confidence, you'll have the kind of strong executive presence that will help you reach your goals. 

3. Emotional Intelligence: Executives who stand out have a special skill called emotional intelligence. This skill helps them know what they're feeling and why, and it also lets them understand other people's feelings. They're really good at showing understanding and caring for others. Even when things get tough, they stay calm and don't lose their cool. This makes it easy for them to connect with people and build lasting, strong relationships

4. Building Relationships: Rapport is a way to connect with others so that you can understand each other better and work well together. There are three main ingredients to make this happen: being likable, being trustworthy, and showing respect. When you meet someone, you usually decide pretty fast if you like them, trust them, and respect them, often without thinking too much about it. To create this good connection, or rapport, you can do several things. Be interested in the other person. Ask them questions to find out what matters to them. Discover what makes them special. Show that you care about what they like, what worries them, and what they hope to achieve. Also, look for things you both agree on or enjoy. This helps make your relationship stronger and more enjoyable for both of you

5. Authenticity: Being an authentic leader means you are true to yourself and your beliefs, and you make sure these line up with your company's values. This helps build trust and makes people believe in you. When we say a leader should act consistently, we mean their actions should match what the company believes in, not that they should do the same thing over and over. For example, if a leader works for a company that believes in "Open Communication," but shuts people down in meetings, she's not being true to those values. Likewise, if a leader says honesty is important but then lies to get a deal done, people will lose faith in him.

 6. Strategic Thinking: Strategic Thinking is a cornerstone of executive presence. It is all about being a forward-thinking leader. To stand out as a top executive, you need a clear and practical vision that goes beyond the day-to-day work and lines up with your company’s vision for the future. It's essential to have a vivid and actionable vision, capable of transcending immediate tasks to align with the organization's long-term aspirations. When consulting clients, one of my first questions is about their company's vision. Often, they say something like,  "To offer innovative business solutions to help businesses do better." That's a good start, and a vision needs to be more than just lofty ideas. It should be something you can measure and use to guide everyone on your team.

For example, a strong vision could be, "Help 100 businesses reach their best potential with our innovative solutions by January 1, 2026." This vision is easy to understand, you can measure progress towards it, and it helps keep everyone focused on what’s most important

7. Adaptability and Flexibility:  Being adaptable and flexible is like being a good traveler on a long journey. Imagine you're on a road where the conditions can change quickly—you might hit a detour, find a shortcut, or face bad weather. The key is to be willing to take different paths and not just stick to one route. The same is true in life and work. Don’t get stuck thinking there’s only one “correct” way to do things. What worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. So, be willing to listen to what other people have to say. Their ideas might offer you a quicker or better route to your destination. And don't be scared to change your plans. Sometimes the new route you discover could lead you to something even better than you had imagined.

8. Responsibility: Responsibility is all about how you handle situations, especially the tough ones. Imagine life throws a curveball at you—maybe you didn't get the job you wanted or you face a problem at work. Instead of panicking or blaming others, take a deep breath and think about how you can turn things around. Your power lies in your reaction. Even if a problem isn't your fault, how you deal with it is totally up to you. By owning your actions and decisions 100%, you can change challenges into chances to grow and learn. It's like turning lemons into lemonade.

 9. Accountability:  Accountability is closely related to responsibility, which means that you're in charge of what you do, how you act, and what happens to you. It’s like being the captain of your own ship. When you are being accountable, you accept responsibility for your actions, behaviors, and experiences and commit to following through on your intentions. Accountability means giving your word and holding yourself answerable to it.  If something goes wrong or doesn't go as planned, you don't blame others; instead, you own up to it. In simple terms, being accountable is like saying, "I've got this," and then proving it by your actions. 

10. Vulnerability: Vulnerability means having the courage to let go of the old you to become the person you need to be to reach your goals. It's like taking off a heavy coat that doesn't fit you anymore. When you're vulnerable, you say goodbye to old habits or ways of thinking that are holding you back. You do this so you can embrace new, better ways that help you grow and be a better leader. It's all about being open to change and willing to take some risks, even if it feels a bit scary at first.

Showing vulnerability helps in establishing trust within the team. Team members are more likely to be open and honest when they see their leader doing the same. 

Quick Tips To Make Your Executive Presence Stronger

  • Master the art of active listening.
  • Define what executive presence means to you.
  • Growth Mindset: embrace challenges, learn continuously, and foster adaptability and resilience, all while inspiring the same attitudes within your teams.
  • Be self aware and open to feedback. 
  • Stay calm under pressure. 
  • Take as much care with your online presence as you do your personal presence. 
  • Make decisions confidently and express your viewpoints clearly.
  • Keep Learning!

Developing a strong executive presence is a long-term commitment, not something you achieve overnight. Think of it like a road trip: buckle up and make the most of the journey. Just like Rome wasn't constructed in a single day, every effort you put in counts. It's like laying bricks one by one to build something great. So let's get started on laying those bricks, step by step.

Keep making your impact in the boardroom, and I look forward to touching base with you again soon.

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