I have been reading several articles lately about the power of executive presence and it has prompted me to consider how this plays out in our work in higher education.
So what is it, exactly?
Factors that contribute to executive presence include: confidence, decisiveness, grace under fire, authenticity, ability to read an audience, vision, polish, charisma, emotional intelligence and a sense of humor.
These characteristics, combined with a proven track record of top performance at work, propel leaders to executive levels of leadership. In a recent study conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), nearly 4,000 full-time white collar professionals were surveyed about how companies leverage their talent pool. When discussing the characteristics to professionally advance, there were some clear cut themes.
Senior-level women believe that executive presence is “28% of what it takes to get the next promotion.” (November, 2012). If that is true, then executive presence is almost 1/3 of the recipe to get ahead–so why aren’t we talking about it more?
Perhaps the stereotypes about what prevents women from advancing in the workplace aren’t as clear cut as they first seem. “Everyone jumps to the conclusion that it’s motherhood (that holds women back), but often the big roadblock is the lack of executive presence—the inability to present oneself in a way that signals to the world that you are leadership material,” (CTI, 2012).
The articles on this topic define the three components of executive presence as 1) how you look, 2) how you speak, and 3) how you behave. These combined with the gravitas to make important decisions confidently speak volumes about how you are perceived at work, according to the study.
Are you lacking executive presence? You might have some areas to improve on if you have ever been told that you are/may be:
“Not a team player”
“Too laid back”
“Need to dial it back”
“Need to be more assertive”
These phrases may be cues that your appearance, communication style and/or behavior may be distracting from your leadership potential and ability.
So what can you do to increase executive presence?
The study points to a few common themes that positively increase how people are received at work.
1) “Treat speeches like theater:” The ability to take command of a room, read an audience and quickly adjust to the tone/needs of the audience, charisma, and demonstrating authenticity through your words inspires others to want to help you achieve your (and the departments) goals.
2) Appearance matters: No, you do not have to be a model (actually being perceived as “too sexy” worked against the perception of executive presence among employees) but being well-groomed, polished, physically fit and wearing visually interesting apparel all positively impacted the perception of executive presence.
3) “Doing” trumps “Thinking”: Decisiveness, confidence, carrying out a vision and the integrity to do what you say you are going to do all impact the perception of executive presence.
What does executive presence mean to you? What are some areas you hope to improve in this year?
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