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3 Ways To Build Executive Presence Part I: Self Communication

In my recent blog, we covered the concept of executive presence by defining what it is and examining its core elements. To recap, executive presence is the ability to influence others by projecting confidence, competence, and gravitas. If you have not already read the blog post, I encourage you to do so!

There are a number of ways to build on one’s executive presence. In this three-part series, I am going to outline three ways that I have found to be exceptionally effective. This first blog is all about communicating with ourselves to identify potential setbacks and rise above them. This process takes strengthening our self-awareness, self-management, and mindfulness to create healthy, intentional responses that we can act on. Follow these tips and practice them often to cultivate your executive presence as an organizational leader.

Checking in With Ourselves

If we have trouble speaking our minds in public, we can check in with ourselves. Remember, it is in our best interest to keep all conversations with ourselves loving and positive. We can ask ourselves to recap the situation and the specific factors involved that are preventing us from speaking out. I will often talk to myself like this – “Hi Rho, what’s going on? What am I afraid of, or what is stopping me from saying what I want to say?”

Very often, the answer is an unfounded fear. I try to remind myself that this is normal – after all, only one of our basic five human emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and shame) is positive. I take a deep breath, say something calming and kind to myself, and then tell/ask myself one or all of the following:

“Rho, you can do this with grace!”

“What is the worst thing that will happen?”

“If I don’t say it, what will I end up losing?”

This dialogue helps ground me while simultaneously moving me forward. Sometimes, I do lose the moment, but we can almost always revisit that moment with a little courage, a warm smile, and a connecting phrase. For example, we can say, “I would like to go back for a moment if it is okay with all of you,” “a few moments ago we were speaking about [insert topic here], and I would love to add something to that,” or “I would love to share a thought that came to me regarding what we just spoke about a few minutes ago.”

Incidentally, I was just in a meeting with a recent college graduate who had been at a new job for just a few months. I watched them take a few notes on their phone and then take a deep breath before saying, “If it is okay, I would like to share a thought I had about the topic of retaining great talent that we spoke about a few minutes ago.” The meeting leader responded by enthusiastically praising the professional for adding their voice to the conversation, thus reinforcing the culture of inclusivity and respect aligning with the organization’s reputation.

Embracing Our Learning Styles

We are all different, and therefore, we all have different learning styles. Some of us are most comfortable forming opinions by thinking, others might be more comfortable seeing words come to life through images, and others might be more comfortable expressing thoughts by writing or typing. Many people learn best through a combination.

If articulating our thinking is hard for us, we can try another mode of learning like writing, typing, or drawing. A great example of how effective this can be are graphic scribes – they write and draw out the concepts that are being discussed in meetings in real-time, bringing the topics to life with more vibrancy and possibility.

Once we have clarity about what we want to say, it is much easier to actually express it out loud. I often encourage clients to get into this practice by first practicing writing out thoughts before speaking. For many people (including myself), making this small tweak from just thinking about what we want to say to actually writing it down can be an absolute life-changer.

As science has confirmed in the last several years, repetition helps us form and maintain new habits. This is why I give homework to my clients in between every session! Now, here is your homework: Try to express your perspective once a month for just one month. Then, try to do it twice a week the next month. By month three, it is very possible that you will see a significant change in your willingness and ability to share your ideas and perspectives – not in spite of your fears or misgivings, but alongside them.

Next Steps

Having a strong executive presence is so helpful to those who are leaders in the nonprofit sector. In addition to the tips mentioned in this series, there is additional work we can do to make our executive presence even stronger in the long run. Executive presence training is one area of coaching that is truly invaluable as it helps us in all areas of our lives.

Are you ready to put this into practice? Contact me if you are interested in working on developing your executive presence further; I love helping nonprofit leaders develop their executive presence, and I have an excellent model for it!


“Rhoda understands the unique characteristics of young adults – she is able to take an individual and help them understand the gifts they bring and their skill set to help them develop those gifts, and help them along that journey.”

-Nancy Berlin, Marriage and Family Therapist, Nonprofit Consultant and Former Hillel Director for over 25 years

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