Executive Presence

Executive Presence

Leadership potential isn’t enough to launch men and women into the executive suite. Leadership roles are given to those who also look and act the part.

Sylvia and The Center for Talent Innovation conducted research that reveals that the top jobs often elude women because they lack executive presence or underestimate its importance. This was a huge study conducted with the sponsorship of several large global companies: American Express, Ernst and Young, Marie Clair Magazine, Gap Inc….so Presence alone won’t get you promoted, but its absence will impede your progress. I was lucky enough to get an early copy before launch from Sylvia so I’m going to share some important takeaways with you.

exec presence
EP is a combo of qualities that true leaders exude, culminating in an aura that telegraphs you are in charge—or deserve to be.
Without it, even the most qualifies and most experienced people can lack followers, advocates and sponsors’—–and essentially be held back from achieving their full potential.
In short, to be anointed as a leader, you must first be perceived as one. And that perception requires some crafting, which is where building your personal or professional brand comes into play.
Looking and acting like a leader depends on getting this trio right…Appearance, Communication and Gravitas
First, although not the most critical, you’ve got to dress like a leader, meaning you’ve got to look consciously pulled together, polished and/or distinctive, but without detracting from the substance of what you have to relay.
Second, your voice, speech, and physical bearing must also imply competence and credibility, to anyaudience.

And third, you’ve got to project an air of confidence, decisive judgement, charisma, and authority that goes beyond why title or credentials can confer. These three elements interact with an influence each other.

For example, if your communication skills ensure you “can command a room” your gravitas grows exponentially, conversely, if your presentation is rambling or your clothing is wrinkled or too revealing, your gravitas suffers a blow. These traits complement on another but are not equally rated…67% of executives found gravitas constitutes the most to executive presence; 28% believe communication and just 5% believe appearance is the most important.

• Exuding “grace under fire”
• Acting decisively and showing teeth
• Showing integrity and speaking truth to power
• Demonstrating emotional intelligence
• Polished Reputation
• Projecting vision

• Great speaking skills
• Ability to command a room
• Ability to read an audience

• Good grooming
• Physical attractiveness

EP is not just valuable to an individual’s career but an organization’s success—large or small. In our complex world, every sector needs leaders who can convince the world that they have a vision and a demonstrable ability to influence and win support. Executive Presence turns up the volume on top talent so everyone can hear you and pay attention. It helps ensure that your wisdom, knowledge and ideas are unleashed.

CTI’s Tips for building Executive Presence:

1. Observe & emulate
2. Ask for specific feedback
3. Increase your visibility
4. Be “several questions deep”…like being overpraised
5. Smile more often than not
6. Less is more
7. Invest in a wardrobe that fits your body type and business environment


Sylvia Ann Hewlett, “Executive Presence: The Missing Link between Merit and Success” Anticipated release in June 2014