by Paul Casey

Enhancing Your Executive Presence (part 1)

What is EP? Executive presence is a combination of personal traits and outward behaviors that create an image of leadership competence and trustworthiness. Executive presence is how one acts (gravitas), speaks (communication) and looks (appearance). It’s a group of traits and behaviors that starts with you and emanates outward to create a perception of your ability to lead under any circumstance.

I’ve started curating some of the best practical advice on EP. Let’s start with some tips on how to act to display executive presence:

  • Increase your self-awareness. Get clear on your strengths/skills, what makes you uniquely you—your own style.    This is the emotional intelligence trait of being aware of how others perceive you. Get lots of feedback on yourself.   This confidence in who you are allows you to avoid imposter syndrome.
  • Dana Theus:“Co-opt your inner critic and make it a trusted advisor. Then ask your inner voice to give you an equally true statement that is positive such as, “I have more than enough experience to do this”. Share your positive truth out loud with a trusted mentor or colleague to practice what Theus calls “believing it out loud”. You won’t convince others that you’re a great leader until you convince yourself. And, engage in positive self-talk before you start your day
  • Cultivate a foundation of quiet confidence. Amy Cuddy says, “Presence is confidence without arrogance…a solid sense of self-worth [that demonstrates] healthy, effective ways of dealing with challenges and relationships.” It’s a balance between gregarious (tone it down) and observer (break out of your shell). This reflects the emotional intelligence trait of emotion-control. Know your trigger points and have a plan of action to handle emotional situations.
  • Be calm, graceful and poised under pressure. Take a moment to take a deep breath and compose yourself. No one wants to see a leader who loses patience or appears flustered or overwhelmed. People with good executive presence present themselves as calm, even-keeled, composed, well-prepared and in control at all times–not harried. It’s a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations and that you’ll make tough decisions in a timely way.
  • “Know your stuff cold,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett. “It’s not about performance. It’s about what you signal about your preparedness for the next big chance.” In an area that you feel lacking, find the person inside/outside your organization who is great at it, and ask for a few hours of their time to teach you (and show gratitude lavishly).
  • Hold your own with Lions, other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team. Don’t hedge; that undermines your persona.
  • Always integrity. Stand by convictions and values. Do what you say you will do: DWYSYWD.
  • Cultivate your network and build political savvy. Develop relationships across the organization. You will then have many advocates when you need them.
  • Raise your hand to tackle problems headon.  Instead of waiting for someone else to take the tough jobs, volunteer to start a task force to wrestle them to the ground. You’ll be seen as a go-to person on the team.

You know EP when you see it. How else would you describe someone who has it? What do you consciously do to demonstrate it at work? Let’s add to the pool of information that can help other leaders. Email me at


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