Competence should be a given by the time you are being considered for an executive role. So what could stop you from being selected for promotion, or successful even if promoted? One answer is weak executive presence.
What is executive presence? It has been called the “Je ne sais quoi” of executive success – invisible, hard to define, but definitely palpable in the boardroom. Bates Communication calls it the “wow factor” and defines it as “the ability to walk into a room and instantly attract positive attention”. With it, a leader is heard and considered; without it, overlooked and dismissed.
In my work with succession planning and executive team coaching, developing executive presence is emerging as one of the most critical development areas. Although some might think presence is the same as charisma, I believe presence is a skill that can be developed, not a charm that some are fortunate to have.
What are the building blocks of executive presence?
Someone with executive presence is grounded in deep values and known for consistency between his or her words and actions.
A healthy self-regard attracts the confidence of others. Self-doubt and a need for approval create warning flags as does arrogance.
The ability to stand alone marks someone with presence. Doing what is right despite opposition and obstacles has immortalized leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
The ability to communicate good and bad news and connect with others in a straightforward, compelling manner earns the respect and commitment of others. Waffling and confusion do not.
Without strong self-awareness and emotional intelligence, a leader with confidence, conviction and clarity could be cunning and controlling. That kind of presence creates fear and resentment.
To sum up, competence is a necessary but not sufficient foundation for executive presence. Character, confidence, conviction, clarity and consciousness must also be developed.
Is it a coincidence that the building blocks to enter and thrive in the C-Suite all start with “C”? I think not.