In my earlier blog (Decoding the WOW Factor – Executive Presence), I spoke about how important it is to develop our Executive Presence in today’s’ digital world.
It’s a myth that you are born with executive presence —you either have it or you don’t. I agree that for some people, executive presence comes naturally but reality is everyone can work on developing executive presence. After you develop the “WOW” factor, everything changes about who you are and how you influence others.
How do you develop executive presence? 7 ways to develop the WOW factor and have heads turn when you enter the room:
- Being Authentic– Won’t you like to work for someone who’s real and not fake? I would say to exude executive presence the first step is ‘be yourself’ and let others see who you are. It helps build trust with them. If you are not authentic people doubt your intentions. Even if you are a great orator people will find you manipulative. So don’t be afraid to use your own style or sense of humor; let people see the real you. How do you do it? It’s critical that you find your own authentic voice. Get to know 4-5 values that are important to you and strive to walk the talk in everything you do. Self-confidence, simplicity and composure are the building blocks of your character. Make these your daily habit. Even if you wear best of the suit but have no character, people may perceive you as “empty suits”.
- Hone your communication skills– How you speak is important to command a room. If you want your ideas to be heard you need to communicate in a way people understand and relate to it. Post the first impression, you will be able create the perception about your ability to lead only with your ability to speak. Be assertive, understand them, engage with them and put them to ease. Don’t talk at them, talk with them. We tend to overload people with details and tell them everything we know, but instead if you have expertise in a specific area, make two or three points. Communicate in a clear and concise manner. Avoid phrases like “I think,” “It might.”, “I suppose” and speak with confidence.
3. Engaging with Others – Are you approachable or engageable? Do you have the ability to read your audience? People won’t grant attention for long, you need to have the ability to keep them engaged and focused so that you are heard. The key is to build strong relationship be it your employees, peers, clients or customers. It’s about showing interest in others capabilities and perspectives. It is not only critical – what you say but how you say it. We need to ask ourselves – how do we want people to feel after they have interacted with you? Do they feel better or worse about themselves? Being aware of how people feel about themselves in your presence is key aspect of executive presence.
- Dress for what you want to portray– The first thing people judge you – by how you look. Your personal style – clothing, hair and makeup coveys the image that you want to portray as a leader. Be intentional about the impression you want to make as a leader and be consistent with that. If you want to portray a professional – dress up like one. Your wardrobe may not be the only deciding factor whether you are ready for the next big role but perception of a poor appearance may become a roadblock. Doesn’t mean you spend your entire income on buying expensive clothes, but important is dress appropriately. I remember years ago when my mother told me, “you can always judge a man by his shoes.” She told me that if the heel is scraped and the shoes look run-down, it speaks volumes about how much a man cares about himself and maybe even how he as a leader. The same goes for woman. People will not notice whether it’s Zara or Louis Philip but they would notice the shirt not ironed or a shabby hair do. Ask yourself: Don’t you feel more confident if you are dressed well or should I say in the best of your clothes? Your body language is completely different when you are wearing flats as compared to when you are wearing heels. Your visual appearance does make a difference in how you are perceived.
- Stay composed under pressure– There’s so much competition and so much pressure that is tough to stay calm. We panic, loose temper, we even take the wrong decisions in haste and regret latter. People with executive presence have the ability to stay cool. Put that fire under the table and stay calm and poised. Know your triggers to make sure they are in control. List out 2-3 hot spots that can trigger you and find strategies to resolve the same.
- Command the room: The biggest driver of executive presence is “how you hold yourself”. When you enter a room, what is your body language? Therefore, make sure you sit up straight, don’t hunch your shoulders forward. Make eye contact with people around the room and add in pauses to emphasize key words or phrases. Simple greeting sets the tone of the meeting. An authentic smile helps you connect and break the ice with people and puts them to ease.
- Build Credibility – In today’s hyper-connected world a single mistake or a slip up will cost you your image. The other day I was watching the movie ‘Jobs’, I learnt brilliance is not enough. In 1985 Steve Jobs was too good at product but couldn’t make it to the CEO of the company which was running on his genius because he couldn’t build his credibility to the board. So how do you build credibility? Credibility is build by commitment to truth, fairness, and objectivity. Can you build credibility if you only know how to take risks without the willingness to admit mistakes? People with executive presence recognize that they are not going to do it right every time, so when they don’t, they’re able to course-correct. People with high credibility know how to ask questions about our values and interests, to listen intently and with empathy, and to pull people together. These are the people with high emotional intelligence to balance the arrogance that sometimes comes with expertise.
It doesn’t matter whether you manage a team or individual contributor or self-employees – executive presence is a choice that you make. You need to decide about how you are showing up every day. How you want to be perceived by others? What personal brand do you want to create? It can help you create the difference but the first step is to believe in yourself, your abilities, your strengths, your values and what you are saying.
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