5 Simple Shifts to Build Your Executive Presence

Whether you're looking for a job, aiming for a promotion or simply cultivating improving your leadership effectiveness, you need executive presence. People define executive presence in so many ways — but we definitely know it when we see it. Strong executive presence means that you "show up" in a way that showcases your value as a leader and aligns with the qualities people associate with strong leadership.  As an executive coach, I've seen how clients inadvertently undermine their executive presence. Changing your behaviors in just one area that's been holding you back can make a big difference in how others see you. Take a look at this list to see where you can strengthen your executive presence and then pick one of these shifts to work on this week.

1. Shift to the bigger picture.  

You probably already know that I'm a big proponent of tastefully tooting your own horn. But even if you aren't shy about sharing your accomplishments, you may be leaving out a key step in strategic self-promotion. It's not just about making others aware of your strengths and what you do with your strengths. It's also about tying what you do to the big picture of what's right for the organization. If you leave out this step, you can come off as self-serving. Instead, show that you understand the greater good and are working for it. The connection between what you're doing and the value it creates for the company might be clear to you, but it always helps to connect the dots for others.  

2. Shift to looking “the part.”  

I had a client whose demeanor detracted from her competence. She was always on top of things but she didn’t look or sound like it because she walked fast, talked fast and often "vented" about challenging situations. If that sounds familiar, look for ways to add more self-care or stress-reducing strategies to your life to help you stay centered, grounded and positive. Manage your emotions so that you can become known as a calming force in any situation.  

3. Shift to playing “the part.”  

If you've recently taken on a new role, you might be undermining your executive presence if you're still practicing habits from your last position. Think about how your behaviors need to evolve to match the way you want to be seen now. Even something as simple as the way you take notes in a meeting sends messages about your confidence and capability.  

4. Shift to noticing what's working.  

I frequently work with clients to help them notice what worked well for them in their latest successes. Sometimes as high performers we're in such a hurry to move on to the next goal that we forget to notice what works for us. But when we do take the time to notice, we can put our strengths and passions into play more powerfully. You can even turn a past setback into something positive when you take a look at what helped you get through it.  

5. Shift to demonstrating more confidence.  

Executive presence takes competence and confidence. And, as Claire Shipman and Katty Kay write in their book "The Confidence Gap," the disparity inconfidence between men and women affects women’s success in the workplace. Luckily, self-confidence isn't something that you're either born with or you're not. It can be learned. Check out some simple confidence-building tips in my blog post on "The Confidence Gap."   To help you further build your executive presence, a title in my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM is devoted just to that topic. It has many more ideas for shifts like the ones in this post that will accelerate your career goals.