Unlock Your Professional Potential: How to Cultivate Executive Presence

Amy Bracht

Amy Bracht

Coach | Change Agent | Dream Manager

Being an effective leader requires more than just technical skills. It requires having a certain presence in the workplace, one that commands respect and enables you to make decisions and lead others.
It also requires a certain emotional intelligence and ability to know how your message is landing on your audience. 

This is known as executive presence.

Developing executive presence is a key part of any career journey, and it is especially important for those looking to break through the barriers that are holding them back from a well-deserved promotion.

In this blog post, you will learn what executive presence is, its benefits, and how to cultivate it.

You will also see how to develop effective communication skills, enhance your leadership skills, manage relationships and conflicts, and build a professional network.

Businesswoman executive explaining graphs in meeting

What is executive presence?

Executive presence can be a bit hard to define. For most people, it is a list of intangible characteristics that  you know when you see them. But for purposes here, I’ll do my best to give you a sense of what it is so that you can incorporate some of these behaviors in your daily life.  

Executive presence is the ability to project confidence and demonstrate a natural charisma that commands respect. It is the way you present yourself and your ideas, and the impact you have on others. It also includes the ability to inspire trust and motivate others to take action.

Executive presence isn’t about having an intimidating or domineering manner. Quite the opposite! It is about having a sense of self-assurance, a strong moral/ethical compass, and a willingness to accept constructive criticism. This is not about hitting others over the head with your control, instead, it happens both overtly and subtly, whatever the situation requires.  

At its core, executive presence is about having the confidence to take charge and lead. It’s about being able to inspire and motivate others to follow you. People choose to follow those who have these leadership attributes and build loyalty to those leaders over time.  

Executive presence traits

There are a number of traits that are associated with executive presence. These include:

  • Being confident and self-assured
  • Having a strong sense of ethics and values
  • Being able to accept constructive criticism
  • Communicating clearly and confidently
  • Having a clear vision and a willingness to take risks
  • Being able to inspire and motivate others
  • Having the ability to make difficult decisions
  • Being able to manage relationships and conflict
Executives shaking hands in the meeting

How to cultivate executive presence

Developing executive presence requires dedication and practice, but it is possible with the right strategies.

1. Develop your communication skills: 

Learn to communicate clearly and concisely in verbal and written forms.

When it comes to executive presence, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely in verbal and written forms is an essential skill. Knowing how to effectively communicate your ideas can help you stand out in the professional world, as well as make you a more effective leader. 

To improve your communication skills, practice speaking, both in private and in front of others.  
Ask someone you trust to listen and give feedback. You can also attend seminars or workshops that focus on communication, take a class in communications, or join your local Toastmasters group to practice your skills. 

One of the keys to executive presence is to be able to make decisions quickly and communicate the why.  If you want to really accelerate your growth in this area, try an improv class. It will force you to get out of your comfort zone and think on your feet. 

2. Practice active listening: 

Listen attentively to others and be mindful of nonverbal cues.

Having executive presence is more than just having the technical skills and knowledge to be successful in the workplace; it’s also about being able to effectively communicate with others. Listening attentively to others and being mindful of nonverbal cues are two key components of building strong relationships and exhibiting strong executive presence. 

Practice listening to hear rather than respond.  Try to paraphrase back to the speaker what you’ve heard them say, so that you can hone your skills. When responding, use the phrase “what I hear you saying is…” and finish with what you interpreted. If the speaker clarifies further, you’ll know you need to practice more. With intentional effort, you will be able to correctly discern what someone else is saying to you.

Black female executive talking to female colleague during a meeting in the office.

3. Be aware of your body language:

Pay attention to your posture, gestures and facial expressions.

Having executive presence means more than just having the right qualifications for the job. 

To truly convey confidence and authority, it’s important to also pay attention to body language, such as posture, gestures, and facial expressions. 

Studies have shown that nonverbal communication can be even more impactful than verbal communication in conveying messages. Therefore, it is essential to consider posture, gestures and facial expressions when trying to project an air of authority in the workplace.

Consider studying some YouTube videos about body language. This can help you understand how others are responding to you, while also learning how you may be presenting to others. 

4. Dress the part:

Choose appropriate attire that reflects your professional values and goals.

Having an appropriate attire is essential to creating an executive presence. It is important to choose clothing that reflects your professional values and goals. Professional attire should be chosen based on the dress code for the organization, demonstrating respect for the organization’s culture and standards. 

This doesn’t mean a suit every day.  In fact, the opposite.  Mirror the leadership of the company that you admire, and you will be ready for any situation.

5. Take ownership:

Take responsibility for your decisions and actions, and be confident in your abilities.

Having executive presence means taking responsibility for your decisions and actions.

It is important to be confident in your abilities, as it can help you make better decisions and ensure that the outcome of your actions is successful.

With the right attitude and confidence, you can make a difference in any work environment.

Authenticity in leaders is a magnet for employees. When you show your own vulnerability, admitting when you make mistakes, and showing others that it’s okay to not be perfect, you earn admiration and respect from those you lead.  

She's brimming of self confidence

6. Exude confidence:

Stand tall with your chin up, make eye contact and speak with conviction.

Developing executive presence is an essential skill for any leader. Standing tall with your chin up, making eye contact, and speaking with conviction are all key elements of creating a strong presence.

Knowing how to project confidence and professionalism can help you attain the level of respect that you need to be successful in the workplace.

Investing in yourself and honing these skills can be a great way to create a lasting impression and make sure you stand out among the competition.

Practice walking confidently.  You can also ask someone you trust for feedback about how you enter the room.  Are you imposing?  Are you noticeable?  Do you fade into the background?  Find a style that works for you to convey your authority without feeling stiff or awkward.

7. Build relationships:

Build relationships with colleagues, superiors and clients by being approachable and trustworthy.

Having executive presence is essential for success in the workplace. Being approachable and trustworthy are key traits that will help build relationships with colleagues, superiors, and clients.

Establishing positive relationships can lead to increased collaboration, better communication, and more opportunities for growth.

Practicing active listening, being open-minded, and displaying confidence in your abilities can also help create an atmosphere of trust and respect in the workplace.

You may discover along the way that you have blind spots to certain behaviors, or that you find particular behaviors especially annoying.

When you come across one of these examples, dig in! 

Think about why that might be bothering you or why you find it easy to ignore some behaviors. 

Seek out a trusted advisor to talk about it or find a coach that can help you decipher why something bothers you more than others.  Chances are, it has something to do with your own behavior.  When you become self-aware about what bothers you, you can then choose to respond in a more constructive way.

Two male executives shaking hands

8. Seek feedback:

Ask for feedback from your peers and superiors to identify areas of improvement.

The best way to identify areas of improvement when it comes to executive presence is to ask for feedback from peers and superiors.

This can help to identify weaknesses and provide a roadmap for improvement.

Additionally, asking for feedback can help to build relationships between peers and superiors, fostering a more collaborative environment.

Therefore, seeking out feedback is essential in developing and honing executive presence.

However, start with feedback from people you trust. 

Tell mentors or other individuals around you that you are working on your executive presence and ask them to help you.

As you develop more confidence, you will know what feedback to take on board and what can be left behind.

9.  Build a professional network

Building a professional network is also a key component of executive presence.

It involves connecting with people in your industry and staying up to date on the latest trends and developments.

To build a professional network, attend conferences and networking events, join professional organizations, and connect with people on social media. 

Write an article about something you know and publish it on LinkedIn. 

Give yourself credit for everything you’ve learned so far! 

By putting yourself out in the public eye as a trusted expert in your field, you’ll not only enhance your personal brand, but you’ll gain confidence by sharing what you know.

Network of interconnected people.

10. Participate in executive presence coaching:

Work with a coach to develop your executive presence and unlock your potential for success.

Having executive presence can be a key factor in achieving success.

To help professionals reach their goals, working with an experienced coach can be invaluable.

Coaches can provide the necessary support and guidance to help develop executive presence and unlock potential.

Working with a coach can help professionals gain clarity on their goals, identify strengths and weaknesses, and develop the confidence and communication skills necessary for success.

The journey to developing executive presence is unique for each person, so it is important to find a coach that is experienced in helping individuals reach their goals. 

Find out about my Executive Presence Coaching Program.

Conclusion

The ability to cultivate executive presence is essential for being an effective leader. It involves having a strong sense of self-assurance, a clear vision, and the ability to inspire and motivate others.

It also requires developing effective communication skills, enhancing leadership skills, managing relationships and conflict, building a professional network, and enhancing your personal brand.

By taking the time to cultivate executive presence, you can unlock your professional potential.

Want to know more about how I can help you develop your executive presence?

Meet me for a free discovery call to find out! Book here.

As a career coach, clients often ask me about how to align their purpose with their career.

If you’re in need of this kind of support, please reach out to me for a complimentary consultation to explore working together.