Leadership and Executive presence – Roles of a Manager
Have you ever been in a meeting, where everyone’s eyes were just glued to one of the participants, who would increase the engagement of the people in the room? That’s the power of executive presence, which is often forgotten when talking about leadership.
What is executive presence?
Executive presence and leadership competencies are two related but distinct concepts. While talking about leadership, people, and companies mostly focus on skills, tangible tasks, and maybe personality to some extent. Executive presence is about the way leadership appears in everyday work. It focuses on how (and if at all) a leader presents themselves in everyday situations and how it enables and supports the organization to achieve its goals and grow. In short, it is about “being there” in a way that brings the best out of people for business success.
For example, a leadership task is defining corporate values. Executive presence on the other hand is an opportunity to demonstrate those values in everyday situations. A leader lacking executive presence can undermine the credibility of those values, which is crucial to the success of any organization. Executive presence is an essential part of the leadership experienced by colleagues in meetings, or in even in written communications. Without executive presence Leadership has limited visibility and Leadership intentions (strategic focus, enabling our organization, energizing and enrolling them) will be suffering.
I recall one of my senior leaders at Procter & Gamble. She represented and is still a role model for me of “understand before judge” behavior. In the probing times of a Fast-Moving-Consumer-Goods business, she was the one who consistently showed her intention to gather data and information first and then make a firm decision while keeping herself and everybody else around her calm.
Her self-control, leaving drama out of the stressful business situation, and enrolling people around her to find a solution is indeed brought the best out of us.
Some common mistakes leaders make when trying to improve their executive presence include speaking more, speaking first, or even speaking louder than their colleagues, pushing their colleagues over. Unfortunately, while this gives the impression of progress and proof of competence, it also creates dependency, which can lead to apathy, demotivation, or even fear in their teams.
How to establish your Executive Presence
Start with self-awareness, self-understanding, and self-control. This helps you to be able to adjust your behaviors to what you want to represent, and what you believe is the best for your business and your organization.
For some leaders, it’s a challenge to confront people when they do not deliver. This also impacts their executive presence: keeping people accountable. A good exercise here is to set up regular accountability sessions up-front when your people are proactively sharing their progress on the most important work. Please note this is not about making them feel stressed or guilty if they lack progress. This is about you helping them to progress. Reinforcing what are the most important results. Making priority calls if needed.
Another good exercise for growing your executive presence is in meetings to speak last and speak the shortest. Try to stay away from using the power given to your position but leverage your personal power, personal credibility, and collaboration skills.