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 continue with some tips on how to speak to display executive presence:
- Listen to understand others’ needs. The first tip isn’t about speaking at all. Use the power of silence. While listening, pay close attention when in conversation with someone, making them feel like the most important person in the world to you right now. To show you are truly in the moment with them, respond to what they just said, and avoid responding with something unrelated–which would give an impression that you are dismissing their opinion or thoughts. Explore the idea just presented with powerful questions. Show empathy to show you care.
- Be clear on a vision that you are passionate about and that’s attractive to others. Leaders are always painting a picture of a better tomorrow. That compelling inspiration inspires confidence. You believing your own story comes out loud and clear to your audience. Suzanne Bates says that leaders with EP have “the ability to engage, align, inspire, and move people to act.”
- Think before speaking and be concise. Rambling gets us off-track and gives the appearance we don’t know what we are talking about. And, impulsive reacting often doesn’t turn out well. When you are tempted to react, remember this: “Feel a feeling? Ask a question.” It buys you time to think while the person further explains their argument. Then, before you open your mouth, think, “What’s the most prudent way of saying this?”
- Eliminate preemptive disclaimers that lower trust in what you are about to say, Phrases like: “I am not an expert, but…” or “This might sound stupid…” or “I just think that,” “or “I wonder if we should” can be omitted and replaced with more definitive statements and more passionate explanations of your position. You want your audience to view you as credible, and you want to have the ability to persuade (for the benefit of others) and not manipulate (for the benefit of self).
- Be transparent and humble when admitting to weaknesses and mistakes. No one is drawn to a leader who is covering over their mistakes instead of owning them. Humility is magnetic and builds trust. Each of these tips can be become weaknesses if overdone; so remember to not go to the extreme of always being self-deprecating nor always deferring to everyone else.
- Employ wit when appropriate. Humor builds bridges and relaxes people with its informality. People who feel comfortable in their own skin can see the humor in themselves and situations more easily, and aren’t afraid to banter and use humor as a way to make their audience feel more comfortable around them.
- Meaningfully engage with your audience. Often, enhancing your EP starts small with preparing a provacative question in advance of meetings, displaying your preparation for engagement. You can concur with someone’s viewpoint and then add something for the group to think about. When you have an alternate opinion, push back respectfully. Loop in others at the table who haven’t spoken to get their opinions.
- Always be polite. There is never an excuse to be rude, even if someone has already thrown their dignity to the wind. You will be remembered for how you didn’t stoop to their level, and yet remained respectful under pressure.
Know someone who exudes executive presence? When you think about how they speak, what could you add to my list? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org