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8 Proven Steps to Develop Executive Presence [+ Exercises]

When organizations are looking to hire new management or promote employees from within to higher up positions, executive presence is a must-have personality trait.

What is executive presence?

Executive presence is a mix of character and personality traits that develop dynamic executives. It's the ability to motivate employees to be strong in their positions by displaying confidence and strong leadership on a regular basis.

Executive presence can help inspire others while increasing productivity in the workplace.

Companies are looking for candidates who display confidence and professionalism when managing employees. It’s an incredibly valuable quality to have in leadership positions.

Why is executive presence important?

Executive presence is important because it indicates that you are a skilled professional capable of managing others and making significant contributions to an organization. It may also boost your confidence and professional worth, regardless of your position, job, or career path.

But, how do executives build their strong presence?

How to develop executive presence

1. Take advantage of a modern LMS

2. Define your leadership style

3. Set realistic and attainable goals

4. Enroll in a mentorship program

5. Join a professional development group

6. Practice your communication skills

7. Record yourself to find improvements

8. Hire an executive coach

Executive presence isn’t a character trait that comes naturally to many working professionals, but can be developed through experience, understanding, and hard work. 

Here are some proven steps to build an executive presence:

1. Take advantage of a modern LMS

One of the best ways to start your path of developing an executive presence is to use the tools your organization should have for employee training and development. If your organization is using an LMS, be sure to start consuming learning materials that revolve around building some of the skills needed to display an executive presence.

Continu’s modern learning platform allows organizations to consolidate their learning materials into a single place while improving the skills employees need to develop an executive presence.

2. Define your leadership style

Figuring out what type of leader you want to be is the next step in developing an executive presence. Which combination of traits works best for your leadership style? Now you can start completing management training courses, attending workshops, or working with other management to build up these skills.

3. Set realistic and attainable goals

In order to set yourself up for success, be sure to set SMART goals that directly apply to your professional development as well as how it can impact your organization. It can be anything from completing training programs to attaining a required certification.

4. Enroll in a mentorship program

A mentorship program is a great way to learn from other executives who’ve gone through the same path. You’ll be able to ask them questions directly, have constant guidance, and find best practices or effective ways to handle situations.

5. Join a professional development group

Executive presence requires great communication skills, understanding, and credibility. Joining a professional development group, forum, or community can help build these skills. They will help you improve public speaking, leadership, eye contact, body language, and other valuable skills needed to build an executive presence.

6. Practice your communication skills

One of the most important competencies of an executive is their ability to communicate effectively. Since higher-level managers need to spread awareness of change or ways to accomplish organizational goals, you’ll need to build up these skills. Practice the speaking skills you’ve been learning when interacting with other team members or people outside the company.

7. Record yourself to find improvements

Consider recording yourself giving a presentation, interacting with another team member, or hosting a meeting. Play it back and take note of what you think worked or didn’t. Did you make enough eye contact? How was your body language? Did you communicate concisely and effectively? You can gain a lot of insight into this approach while finding ways to improve.

8. Hire an executive coach

If you have the money or your organization offers this service, this is a great opportunity to bring in an expert. Executive coaches can provide you with the necessary guidance, training, and exercises to develop leadership and communications skills. They will help plan your development path and act as a consultant, answering any questions you may have when developing an executive presence.

Developing Executive Presence

Download Free Exercises for Developing Executive Presence

Exercises to build and improve executive presence

In order to successfully develop your executive presence, you’ll need to practice the skills you’ve learned using specific exercises.

These executive presence exercises are broken down into four different categories: mindfulness practices, daily habits, powerful communication, and strong networks.

Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness is the understanding of what’s happening in your mind without acting on it.

Executives at Google, Salesforce, Apple, Medtronic, the Hartford Financial Services Group, and other companies leverage mindfulness and meditation for better decision-making and management.

  • You’ll learn to recognize when you’re feeling stressed without lashing out at your direct reports
  • You’ll discover when you’re feeling inadequate and stop yourself from being too self-deprecating in meetings
  • You’ll know when you have to seek out help to make you more effective in solving the problems you’re facing.

Mindful business leaders are able to avoid the obstacles that stand in the way of a strong executive presence. They communicate clearly, leverage their strengths, and seek help when they need it.

Build Good Daily Habits

Building new habits takes dedication, so it’s a good idea to start with one at a time. Once you’ve made something a part of your daily routine, you can start adding more. Eventually you’ll have more of the habits that make a great leader.Here are a few habits you might consider building:

  • Dressing for the position and reputation you want
  • Engaging in positive self-talk before you start your day
  • Practicing strong posture and positioning
  • Spending an hour working before checking your phone in the morning
  • Taking an extra moment to think before you speak
  • Identifying three primary tasks each day

These and many other habits will help you build a stronger executive persona. Choose one that will be useful and start working on it.

Communicate Powerfully

Communication is a big part of building an executive presence. If you hedge a lot and use other “weak” communication practices, people will see you as less sure of yourself. And that undermines your persona.

Start being intentional about how you communicate. Get rid of hedges like “I think” and “maybe we should.” Make sure that your instructions and requests are as clear as possible.

And don’t be afraid of silence. Filling quiet spots in conversation with meaningless chatter makes you look less confident.

Build a Strong Network

Leaders with strong executive presence have networks of people that trust them and that they can rely upon. Having a valuable network is great for any executive.

How do you build this network? By being helpful. When someone at your company needs help, volunteer your time and effort. Go to networking events and conferences with the goal of finding someone who could use your expertise, and offer it freely.

Stay in touch with people that you connect with, too. It’s easy to help someone and then get too busy to follow up and see how things are going. But when you show that you care, you’ll develop the trusted, confident persona you want.

Traits that display executive presence

Executive presence consists of many different personality traits that when combined create an incredibly valuable member of the organization. There are a variety of executive presence traits that define a successful leader, such as:

Confidence - the ability to handle daily tasks in a self-assured manner. This would include leading meetings, engaging with team members, or making business decisions. Employees respond better to executives that have a confident personality.

Composure - the ability to present yourself in a disciplined and professional manner during a workplace situation. It’s also about managing both the emotions of yourself and others when issues arise by staying calm and collected.

Character - the inner traits, values, and beliefs of an executive create their character. It also includes the morals or ethics that executives hold themselves or team members to. Managers that develop an executive presence tend to demonstrate higher levels of emotional intelligence.

Charisma - composed of powerful communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal. This communication skill revolves around encouraging and engaging with employees to rely or trust in you to achieve the goals of the business.

Command - the ability to lead a team through trust and confidence. A commanding executive presents, listens, directs, and delegates work to employees that benefit the entire organization.

Concise - the efficiency in providing direction or communication clearly and timely. It’s the ability to provide employees with the information they need to get the job done in simple and understandable steps.

Credibility - communicating messages accurately through the processes used to gather information. The reputation of the executive is also a major factor of credibility, whether it’s their resume, experience, or achievements.

Connection - interpersonal skills used to develop professional relationships and encourage productivity of employees. By connecting with your employees, executives can foster teamwork and improve corporate communication.

Start developing an executive presence

With intentional practice and good habits, you can develop a strong presence. And that helps you lead with confidence.

Remember that every challenge is an opportunity to improve your executive presence and that every time you miss one of your goals is a chance to make better plans for the future. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s one of the best ways to practice executive presence.

If you can do that—and use the exercises above—you’ll build an executive presence to be proud of.

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