Executive Presence

Episode 32
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Leadership Qualities

Pretending to have an executive presence is not necessarily the most effective way to get the promotion you’ve been dreaming about.

Executive presence is a composite of leadership qualities that you should always be working towards if you’re an aspiring leader.

If you’ve stumbled across this blog because you’re struggling to define exactly what you need to show executive presence, you’re not the only one! 

This term seems to be notoriously difficult to define although easily used as a necessary ingredient for leadership. I’ve had a lot of clients get frustrated when the term is used by their managers in feedback sessions – mostly because it’s rare to get specific feedback on exactly what is missing.

Executive presence is highly intuitive and difficult to pin down, it ultimately boils down to your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team” (Beeson, 2012)

But is there any research behind which leadership qualities build an executive presence?

Unfortunately the only studies I can uncover are from industry articles which are not peer reviewed.

But there is a great study recently undertaken by global think tank Coqual into what constitutes executive presence that I think you’ll find very helpful.

Coqual views executive presence through 3 core ingredients that matter in different ways.

GravitasHow to apply it

This is seen as the most important leadership quality according to 67% of some heavyweight multinational companies (Coqual, 2012). 

We can summarise this as the capacity to speak and act decisively and confidently when under pressure.

Key behaviours you want to show to demonstrate gravitas include: 

  • Confidence when under pressure,
  • Decisiveness,
  • Integrity,
  • Emotional intelligence,
  • A strong reputation and visionary ideas.

CommunicationHow to apply it

If you want to level up your executive presence, consider fine-tuning your verbal and non-verbal leadership qualities.

Key behaviours in this area will include:

  • Advanced speaking skills for any situation,
  • ability to command a room,
  • ability to position yourself with your stakeholder/ conversation partner to serve their attention and keep them engaged.

There are a variety of specific tools based on research that will improve your leadership communication. Our team can train you in science-based strategies to demonstrate increased leadership qualities by strategies to optimise your voice tone, logical language, meeting room participation and overall communication delivery.

Our team read the research to help you personalise your communication style to exhibit your leadership potential effectively.

We’ll analyse your workplace hierarchy and reported environment to pinpoint who the key players are and strategize with you a game plan to optimise your position by incorporating targeted communication strategies that indicate your leadership qualities. We’ll even help you with your efforts to move up the ranks by strategising your pitch, promotion bids and requests to set you up for a higher chance of success.

AppearanceYes, it matters

Appearance is an essential tool to showcase your communication and gravitas behaviours naming good grooming and physical attractiveness as features that enhance positive bias for executive presence (Coqual).

But, let me note, on 5% of those surveyed cited appearance as critical. The difficulty with appearance is that its subjective quicksand.

There’s no one size fits all rule for this. Every company is different, for example, your approach needs tailoring according to the company you find yourself in and the key contacts you need to impress to get ahead. Executive presence at Google may look drastically different from an executive at Goldman Sachs.

Your gameplan for Executive Presence

Episode 32

Coming Soon

This little shot is scheduled for 10 am on Tuesday the 23rd of February, 2021. If you arrive here earlier, don’t forget to turn on notifications via the YouTube premiere button so you can be first to know once the mini-tutorial pushes live.

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I hope you enjoyed this Little Shot and that it has given you some expressive fuel to think deeper about how you can demonstrate your leadership qualities more proactively.


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Axelrod, R. (2017). Leadership and Self-Confidence. Chapter in book Leadership Today.

Beeson, J. Deconstructing Executive Presence, Harvard Business Review, 2012 https://hbr.org/2012/08/de-constructing-executive-pres

Blazek, S. G. (2015). CEO Staying Power, Korn Ferry. Retrieved from: https://www.kornferry.com/content/dam/kornferry/docs/article-migration/CEOStayingPower.Winter2017.pdf

Hewlett, S., Leader-Chivée, L., Sherbin, L, Gordon, J. and Dieudonné (2012). Executive presence. Coqual. 

Dagley, G. & Gaskin, C. (2014). Understanding executive presence: Perspectives on business professionals. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research, 66(3), 197-211. doi:10.1037/cpb0000011 

Evan, R. (2019). Queering Executive Presence. Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis. 10.31274/jctp.8205.

Hewlett, S.(9 February 2011). Dress for the job you want? Harvard Business Review

Mencl, J., Wefald, A. & Ittersum, K. (2016). Transformational leader attributes: interpersonal skills, engagement, and well-being. Leadership & Organization Development Journal. 37. 635-657. 10.1108/LODJ-09-2014-0178.

Rule, N. & Ambady, N. (2009). She’s got the look: Inferences from female chief executive officers’ faces predict their success. Sex Roles, 61, 644-652. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9658-9

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