Executive Presence: What It Is and How to Build It

This blog is the based on a conversation on Executive Presence as part of a series of discussions on 7 growth skills on Mentza & hosted by Devraj Ghosh

Have you ever been in a room with a leader who commands attention and inspires confidence? Or noticed how some people seem to have a certain quality that is difficult to describe that sets them apart in business and social settings? This intangible quality is often referred to as executive presence, a concept that has gained prominence in recent years but remains somewhat elusive.

In a nutshell, executive presence is the ability to inspire confidence and convey authority, regardless of one’s position or title. It’s not about style, charisma, or hierarchy, but rather about how others experience you. Executive presence is the missing link between merit and success, according to Sylvia Ann Hewitt, a business leader, economist, and author of the book “Executive Presence.”

Executive presence is the missing link between merit and success, according to Sylvia Ann Hewitt, a business leader, economist, and author of the book “Executive Presence.”

But what exactly does executive presence entail, and how can you build it? Hewitt breaks it down into three buckets:

  • Gravitas: how you act
  • Communication: how you share your message
  • Appearance: how you look

Let’s explore each of these elements in more detail.

Gravitas refers to how you act. It involves being self-confident, speaking up in a room, and creating your own space without dominating others. It also includes having a calm and steady demeanor, being able to handle tough situations with grace and composure, and having a strong sense of purpose and vision.

Communication is the second element of executive presence, and it is about how you share your message. This includes being clear and concise in your communication, adapting your communication style to your audience, actively listening to others, and using storytelling to make your point.

The third element of executive presence is Appearance. This includes not only how you dress, but also your body language and overall demeanor. It involves projecting confidence, being aware of your physical presence, and ensuring that your appearance is appropriate for the situation.

So why is executive presence important? As mentioned earlier, it is the missing link between merit and success. It allows others to perceive your abilities, skills, and strengths in the best possible light, and it can help you to achieve your goals and advance your career.

The good news is that executive presence can be built and acquired. It is not a personality trait or a natural talent, but rather a set of skills that can be developed through practice and intentional effort. Some ways to improve your executive presence include practicing self-reflection, seeking feedback from others, working on your communication skills, and dressing appropriately for the situation.

To conclude, executive presence is a critical element of professional growth and success. By focusing on the three elements of Gravitas, Communication & Appearance, you can increase your influence and effectiveness in any organization or situation.

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