Elevate Your Leadership with Executive Presence: A Must-Have Skill for Success

What is executive presence

“I want to work on my executive presence.” As an executive coach, this tends to be one of the most common goals my clients want me to coach. In fact, one out of five clients often want to work on this goal. Sometimes the HR or the senior management would ask me to help their leaders “increase their voice and visibility in the boardroom”, which relates to executive presence.

But what is executive presence? Who gets to define it? And how can one evaluate whether they have it or not? While it’s undoubtedly a worthy professional goal, executive presence often remains elusive, shrouded in ambiguity, and begging for clarity.

When clients approach me with this goal, I begin by encouraging them to define how they perceive executive presence and how they would evaluate their current state and desired future state. I often ask them to identify individuals they believe they embody this executive presence quality, dissect the associated behaviours, and pinpoint the areas they wish to improve.

Here are some noteworthy traits commonly observed in individuals with executive presence:

1. Calm and Composed Demeanour


The ability to stay calm and collected even when others get all worked up. This is often projected from the tone and pace of the voice.


2. Mature Self-Confidence


The ability to project self-assuredness and handle challenging and unpredictable situations with composure and control.


3. Decisiveness



The ability to make tough decisions at the moment while holding their ground amidst a group of talented and strong-willed executives.


4. Assertiveness With Tact

The ability to stand firm and express opinions when faced with challenges or opposition in a non-confrontational way.


Can executive presence be cultivated? Definitely— is my answer though I think a baseline of self-confidence and competency is required. If unsure where you stand now, seek unvarnished feedback from trusted peers, bosses or family members.

Executive presence can look different for each person and it is crucial in leadership. One of the most compelling reasons is that it fosters confidence. Leaders with executive presence possess the ability to instill confidence in their team members and stakeholders, projecting an image of competence, capability, and composure in the face of challenges. Such confidence can be infectious, inspiring team members to push beyond their limits and embrace new opportunities for growth and development.

What Is The Difference Between Charisma And Executive Presence

Recently a CEO asked me what was the difference between charisma and executive presence.  Here’s my take:

Executive presence are often used interchangeably but are synonymous. Both concepts relate to how you carry yourself. But the two are different.

Charisma definition: Charisma is the magnetic and charming personal quality that draws people to someone. People with outgoing, energetic and likeable personality that seems to naturally attract other people to them are said to have charisma.

Executive Presence definition: Executive presence is the ability to communicate your authority, knowledge and expertise in a way that inspires confidence in your ability to lead. It is a combination of traits that projects confidence and authority; at its core, executive presence is about showing up with a calm and mature demeanour when the stakes are high.

Whether you should focus on developing charisma or executive presence depends on your specific goals and the context in which you operate.

If you plan to develop your executive presence, mindful that it is not an overnight transformation. It necessitates deliberate cultivation. If needed, consider engaging an executive coach—I would be more than happy to lend a helping hand. With persistence, self-awareness, and a commitment to growth, you can leave an indelible mark as someone who inspires confidence.

If you are looking to further strengthen your leadership skills, read here for more tips.