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Leadership: Executive Presence

To be a leader it’s very important that you have “Executive Presence.”

The first time I heard of this was from one of my former Senior Managers.  As I have come to understand it in the years since I got this advice, having “Executive Presence” means having a sense of professional maturity in your career.  Ultimately such maturity as a leader, in how you handle yourself and the things that happen within and outside of your control, does matter because it breeds admiration and respect from those under you.  If you need to march into hell, then your people will follow you into the fire because they believe in you and in what you’re doing.

In further reflection since the years I first realized what it means to have “Executive Presence,” I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more than just professional maturity, though such is still an important aspect in having such an aura in one’s personality.

To have “Executive Presence” means to be someone who is able to take command of a situation, make a decision based on the best available information that you have at your disposal, and execute on the plan you formulated to get things done and make things happen.  It means people look to you to provide direction or a perspective on what needs to happen.  You have the attitude of driving things forward and seeing things through until the task is done.

You have “Executive Presence” when you have a plan and you see to it that it gets done.  The ability to do strategic planning is critical.  This involves knowing exactly what you want to get and defining measures to say how near or far you are to your goals.  Planning alone is obviously not enough; execution of the plan is just as important.  Tracking the outcome against expectations as the plan is implemented is important to know your status and to make adjustments to the approach based on sometimes ever-changing circumstances; this is especially crucial in the many situations in life where you have no control.

You have “Executive Presence” when you set expectations properly, stick to your commitments and communicate appropriately.  When you say that you will deliver something in the form, quality, time and place agreed upon, you do it.  There are also no surprises; you raise issues and come up with a concrete action plan to resolve it and / or ask for help.  Ultimately you still take ownership in fixing any issues to closure, driving to get things done and make things happen.

As an effect of having “Executive Presence,” you are people’s “comfort zone” and “sense of security.”  They are confident that the right thing will happen because it is YOU who is on point to make it happen.  Of course, it should not come as a surprise that your reality is such that the work that comes your way only gets more challenging and insane, so expect that.  However it’s in such trials where growth in skill, experience, wisdom and character is best developed.  And the fact that you are the one getting such insane assignments only validates the trust that people have in you.

It truly is a great honor when your leadership and counsel are sought after.  You know you’re successful when you are the first person that comes to people’s minds to solve problems or get things done; when you’re asked for your opinion on certain matters and what you say carries a lot of weight and ultimately influences the final decision or the direction of an approach.

Seek to develop a sense of “Executive Presence” in your life, for the value of this characteristic goes beyond the workplace as it’s applicable to all facets of life.

Categories: Ideas and Philosophy

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