The most effective marketing tools are often subtle, says Martin Lindstorm.
The same can be said for executive presence. That indefinable ability to inspire confidence, command respect, deliver under pressure and charm the most exacting of audiences.
All agree it is a vital leadership quality to be nurtured and strengthened; an imperative for anyone wanting to stand out, get results, and be promoted.
A study by the Centre for Talent Innovation suggests it weighs heavily in leadership and talent assessments. Indeed, it was ranked as one of the top three essential leadership traits in a 2013 Gartner CIO Survey.
Some people are born with it. The rest have to work at it.
Executive Presence can be developed by hard work, says John Ullmen, co-author of Real Influence. As Marie Curie, the first female Nobel Prize winner, said, ‘We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and this thing must be attained.’
And that is simply an act of will bolstered by personal commitment and drive, says Michael Useem of Knowledge@Wharton. It cannot be half-hearted or insincere – instead, it must involve the mind, the heart and the spirit.
Cultivate Your Mind
To be an effective and inspiring leader you must have the depth of knowledge and understanding necessary to develop and effectively deliver a vision with energy, committment and clarity of purpose. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Winston Churchill come to mind.
Read a lot. Good fiction, says Joe Badaracco of Harvard Business School, has a way of drawing you in to the complex intellectual, psychological and cultural realities of its characters. It teaches you the importance of perspective; shows you the power of words; and encourages you to be more compassionate, thoughtful and eloquent.
Develop your Personality
If you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader, says Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico. That takes wisdom and confidence – you’ll need both when you walk into a meeting, stand up to give a speech, or sit down to fire someone. Dress the part, charm your audience with a good yarn simply told and earn the respect of your humblest employee.
Appreciate that cultural, intellectual and emotional baggage colours everyone’s attitude and perspective on life.
Strive to set people at ease; encourage them to share their opinions and find ways to empower them.
Emotional intelligence is critical to executive presence. Pay attention to the impact of your choices as a leader on the people around you. Empathise. Build strong relationships across all levels of your organization to gain a deeper understanding of how it works and greater appreciation for the people who work there. Be graceful under fire. Always.
Nurture your Spirit
Charm, sincerity, warmth, generosity, patience, integrity, courage and humility show strength of character. They may seem imperceptible but shine through when you make eye contact during a presentation or sit-down to chat with a colleague. Listen to Malala Yusufzai address the United Nations. It’s powerful stuff.
Developing executive presence is hard work. It needs constant reflection and wisdom that comes from knowing yourself and accepting the world around you, foibles and all.