As 2013 draws to a close, you’re probably beginning to think of ways to develop in 2014 within your senior management or executive role. If you are, it’s time to add ‘Developing Executive Presence’ to the top of your list.
Your level of executive presence impacts the performance of both you and your team. So for those who think it’s just an overused buzzword, think again.
Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Virgin’s Richard Branson and Larry Page of Google are some people that instantly spring to mind upon pondering this term. These people epitomise what it is to have executive presence. That ‘can’t put your finger on it’ pizzazz that’s mixed with a sense of safety and responsibility that encourages employees and peers to join them for the ride… to wherever that may be.
Effective leaders make those around them WANT to be part of the gang. Not by using the stick, but the carrot – and you exuding executive presence can be the juiciest carrot on offer.
Interestingly, 268 senior level executives surveyed in New York by the Center for Talent Innovation stated that when making decisions regarding promotion, levels of executive presence counted for 26% of the reasoning behind final conclusions. Not only can having an executive presence help your teams perform better, but it can also make a big difference to your own on-going career options.
Whilst executive presence is more of a concept rather than a specific talent, there are many ways to develop the individual skills that can make you be perceived as having it.
And that’s the key thing here. It’s all about perception.
Having an executive presence doesn’t just magically happen overnight, however the following tips can get you well on the way to building your brand and that ‘what is it about him/her’ aura.
A good first impression is vital. In 2014, spruce up your wardrobe to make sure you look the part. The Center for Talent innovation survey shows 75% of all respondents stating that unkempt attire was a no-no in creating executive presence.
Keep your body language sincere and watch out for how people respond to it. Be especially careful with eye contact. Too little and your team will think you don’t like them. Too much and they think you are challenging them. Remember, your team can help you create that perception of executive presence. You need them onside.
When it comes to your team, this may sound obvious, but talk to them. And that means with EVERYONE including the IT intern in the server room and the lovely guy dishing out coffee in the staff canteen. They contribute to YOUR success. Being visible to people means they will talk about you, helping create that intangible aura of presence.
Don’t just ask the questions that may interest you. Ask ones that may interest others. Be genuine and sincere in your questioning and (this may seem obvious), LISTEN to the answers. The best innovations and insights can come from seemingly insignificant interactions. Make your employees feel valued and they will value you more in return.
Create opportunities for inspiring people, pushing them further through encouraging improvement. Take a leaf out of Steve Jobs’ book. When his tech team presented him with the iPad 2 prototype and told him it was faster than its predecessor, he dropped it in his fish aquarium. ‘Look how slowly it sank,’ he said. ‘Make it faster.’
Inspire curiosity through sharing. Share things about yourself, your goals and your ideas. Share success with people. Make them want to know about where you and the organisation are going. Secrets are often mistaken for lies on the workplace rumour mill and transparency will ensure people are telling the story YOU want told.
Be poised and confident when interacting with others. Walk into rooms knowing that what you have to offer is valuable, interesting and informative because you have prepared beforehand and understand your audience. Attentiveness in getting to know about others and using research to link to their interests will inspire dialogue, trust and respect.
Take responsibility and be fearless in approach. Teams don’t look for leaders to lead from behind a desk in an office with a closed door. Deal with the difficulties of business in full view when feasible and let your peers, employees and competitors see how you lead from the front.
With more and more organisations looking to differentiate between senior executives when it comes to promotion, recruitment and performance, developing the traits of executive presence will help you stand out from the crowd.
Reflect on what you do now and practice the above when you can. Then use your credibility, charisma and gravitas to win EVERYONE over in 2014.