How to Improve Your Executive Presence
In professional service industries such as management consulting, it’s important to have “executive presence” and continue to develop it. You won’t be able to grow your career without it.
Typically, executive presence refers to the way you present yourself—how you dress, shake someone’s hand, make eye contact, sit, ask and answer questions, and communicate in general. In other words, executive presence refers to your ability to relate to others, such that even after you leave a room (virtual or real), people will remember the positive impression you left behind.
The challenge with executive presence is that whether you realize it or not, you’re always making an impression when you work with others; therefore, you’re always being graded on your executive presence. And since your executive presence is an essential part of your value to employers, it’s important to become self-aware about your presence if you want to boost your value.
So, below are three essential tips for developing your executive presence and boosting your value in the process.
1. Develop a positive and a confident communication style
To foster a positive and a confident communication style, it’s important to be definitive in your speech. Rather than using words that sound conditional and uncertain such as “perhaps”, “might,” or “could,” be firm and confident in your speech by using words such as “must” or “would” so that people listening to you have a clear sense of what you’re saying and where you stand.
It also helps to be more optimistic in your viewpoints—portraying a glass half-full approach as opposed to glass half-empty—because people, in general, respond more to hopeful and uplifting messages as opposed to negativity and pessimism. With that said, if you must channel a negative sentiment, don’t beat around the bush; instead directly address the situation but with humility and respect.
2. Check your demeanor—and make sure it’s consistent with your communication style
Do you tend to slouch when walking into a room? Show up late to appointments? Avoid looking people in the eye when speaking with them? If so, such demeanor is incongruent to the positive and confident communication style mentioned above. You must exude confidence and positivity not only through your communication style but also through your body language. Be deliberately “present” in the moment, listen attentively, and give the other person your undivided attention.
While speaking with confidence is important, projecting a confident demeanor that allows others to express their ideas and opinions is even more important. It’s the harmony of your communication style and demeanor that will allow you to inspire confidence in others and elicit trust.
3. Demonstrate emotional stability
Executive presence requires emotional stability. If you’re prone to frequent outbursts and other such related display of emotions or passive-aggressive behavior at the workplace, you won’t come across as emotionally stable. Exuding confidence and building executive presence requires being calm—even in the midst of a turmoil. A calm and thoughtful mind is significantly more capable of maneuvering through aberrations. The calmer and more composed you’re in such situations, the higher the likelihood of others willing to express their ideas and take your lead at the same time.
Recipient of the Presidential Award from The White House, Vibhu Sinha is an intrapreneurial and bottom-line driven senior management professional with experience in leadership roles across banking and capital markets, advising institutional clients on corporate strategy, idea generation and pitching, financial planning and analysis, M&A, investor relations, and ESG. Vibhu developed his acumen in Behavioral Psychology at Harvard University as part of a master's degree program, and also earned an M.B.A. from UCLA Anderson.