Executive presence is often a misunderstood concept that people find difficult to understand.
I’ll help demystify it and talk about how executive presence empowers executives to inspire and drive excellence for people and organizations. It is a crucial quality to grow into and succeed as a leader that is often highly overlooked.
What is Executive Presence?
Executive presence is the influence of others by ability to project confidence, competence, and gravitas. It's about being aware of your impact on others and exuding an aura of trusted authority and authenticity.
But it's also about more than just looking the part. It's about having a clear and confident point of view, articulating your ideas clearly and compellingly, and having the emotional intelligence to read and respond to others effectively. In short, it's the whole package.
Here are the core elements of executive presence.
A Clear Point of View
It’s not about only coming up with brilliant ideas and perspectives. It’s also about crafting others’ views and contributions to align with the vision and direction of the organization to create great excitement and commitment. Add your own learned experiences and lead others forward with grace and confidence and watch your executive presence grow.
We’re not talking about arrogance here. Rather, it’s having surety in your ideas, perspectives, and unique takes on things. Self-confidence based on a solid foundation can be exciting, alluring, and magnetic. It inspires others to follow you.
Convey self-confidence by speaking clearly and in your own style. For some, it's warmth, some use humor, and others lean on intellectualism. Use your confidence to both stimulate and welcome others as you build executive presence.
Driven by Core Values
Executive presence is achieved when we abide by our core values. As nonprofit leaders champion values of integrity, respect for self and others, equality, opportunity, and courage, then express them consistently, verbally, and non-verbally.
Active listening is key. Those with executive presence devote their attention to other speakers and don’t talk over others. Conversely, when effective leaders speak, they have thoughtful things to say while being concise, relaxed, and witty (at no one else’s expense).
Style & Composure
How you look is also a key part of executive presence. Your appearance physically conveys confidence, authority, and credibility. It sends a message that you are in control and ready to lead.
But even more so, it conveys respect for yourself and others. It shows your sense of style while respecting your organization's culture. Dress for success by choosing professional and appropriate clothing for the occasion and the field you are in. Be aware of your body language such as posture, make eye contact, and radiate positive energy.
Executive Presence & Gender Equality
The idea that women need more help to develop their executive presence over men is a fallacy. Some claim that women have not been encouraged enough to use their voices and confidence in the workplace.
In my experience, this is not true, especially in the nonprofit sector. Over the last 30 years (and definitely in the previous three years), I’ve worked with an equal number of women as men in executive presence. Plus, executive presence is a skill, not a trait, so it can be learned over time — regardless of gender.
Fostering Executive Presence in the Nonprofit Sector
I identify those who choose to work in the nonprofit space as givers. Givers find joy and purpose in applying their skills, talents, and gifts toward helping others improve and are less prone to develop themselves in the same way.
Nonprofit leaders can gain confidence in speaking through executive presence. It's about commanding attention, inspiring others, and conveying confidence. By helping nonprofit leaders understand and develop their executive presence, I give them the tools they need to make a difference in their organizations and communities. Contact me if you strive to take command of your executive presence and learn the roadmap to empowering your organization to accomplish its great mission.
"If someone is looking for a coach, it’s about really being seen, and Rhoda really sees people. She has so much experience and she understands the nonprofit world. She gives the best advice because it doesn’t feel like it’s a place of judgment. It feels like it’s coming from a place that she wants the best for you."
-Dr. Rachel Lerner- Dean, Graduate Center for Education at AJU