Have you been told that you are a good performer and technically competent but you lack executive presence to get promoted to Director or Vice President? In your last performance appraisal were you told such things as?
- You need to work on your presentation skills
- You get too detailed when you present to executive audiences-they get impatient
- You tend to “be invisible” instead of standing out and speaking up during larger meetings
The quality of “leadership presence” or “executive presence” is crucial to credibility, and therefore the ability to successfully lead others, inspire confidence, and get what you want in business today. Now is the time to take the opportunity to look at what you need to do to manage the demands and be an effective leader. You must be a leader for these times. Women are well suited to lead during these times, if they would embrace their strengths and develop the confidence to so.
Identify the characteristics of “executive presence” so you can begin to assess yourself and build on your strengths and identify developmental areas. This is a list of characteristics written by Paul Aldo in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The Nine Expressive Qualities of Executive Presence
People who have excellent executive presence are very good at consistently projecting the following qualities to their audience:
- Candor: The appearance of honesty, through the willingness and skill to constructively tell it like it is.
- Clarity: The ability to tell your story in an intuitively clear and compelling way.
- Openness: The appearance of not prejudging, of being willing to consider another point of view.
- Passion: The expression of commitment, motivation, and drive that shows people you really believe in what you do.
- Poise: The look of sophistication, conveying a background of education and experience.
- Self-confidence: The air of assurance, such that others know you have the required strength and resolve.
- Sincerity: The conviction of believing in and meaning what you say.
- Thoughtfulness: The projection of thinking or of having thought through something before responding.
- Warmth: The appearance of being accessible to others and of being interested in them.
Engaging starts with finding your voice-literally. That is easy for some women to do, but for many, speaking up is daunting. But to lead you must be heard. You must have presence. You must put yourself out there; it lets people see how you think, how you interact under pressure. Notice that these qualities have nothing to do with the content of the message. That is because research shows that over 80% of most communication is non-verbal. You have probably seen people who you admire that demonstrate these qualities. These were people who stood out. You might not have been able to use the words here to describe them but you recognized it when you saw it. It was executive presence.
So what can you do? Get started working on this today. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to speak up-and the easier it becomes for people to overlook you. Identify a mentor in your organization who will give you honest feedback. If you do not feel comfortable with an internal mentor, hire an executive coach who will give you open and honest feedback. Take an emotional intelligence assessment to better understand your interpersonal tendencies so that you can be aware of the specific behavior changes you want to work on. Many organizations offer communications workshops that allow you to practice your presentation skills and get videotaped to see yourself. Enroll in a class. Seminars that train speakers are great resources for developing executive presence. Remove the barriers to your next step towards the executive suite.