Leadership Qualities: Executive Presence.

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Photos courtesy of Amy Hirschi, History in HD, Jakob Owens and Luke Ow on Unsplash. 

Groups can function for a time without their leader, but when conflict arises, decisions have to be made, and a new vision crafted, team members feel more secure once their leader is present.  Executive presence communicates to the team, “I’m here and everything is under control.”

 The power of presence is learned early in life through parents.  Imagine an active infant moving about, making a mess, and generally doing the opposite of everything mom wants done.  Then Dad arrives and it almost appears as if there is instant order.  Dad takes the child and all is quiet.  He guides the child to do whatever needs to be done – eat, take a bath, take a nap – with minimal fuss.  The child recognized the leadership presence of Dad which communicates, “I’m in charge here.”

“A person with executive presence is someone who, by virtue of how he or she is perceived by audience members at any given point in time, exerts influence beyond that conferred through formal authority” (Dagley & Gaskin, 2014).  According to Suzy Monford, the CEO of the San Francisco based supermarket chain Andronico’s, “You need to show up each day the way you want to be perceived” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2016/01/18/5-ways-to-instantly-increase-your-leadership-presence/#3d09f0a13073).

No matter if you are the CEO of a broadcasting enterprise whose members are grieving over the loss of several members of the community in a short time, or you are the CEO of a global internet company that facilitates acts of hate and terrorism, your people need to be inspired by your confidence.  They need to know without a shadow of a doubt that you are the leader they want to follow; your peers need to know that you are capable and reliable; and, above all, senior leaders need to believe that you have the potential for great achievements.


Photo courtesy of Austin Distel on Unsplash.

Research shows that executive presence is difficult to define.  However, based on interviews with 34 professionals it does have some critical components including:

  • Itis based on audience perceptions of the characteristics of particular people.
  • 10 core characteristics affect executive presence, including:
    1. status and reputation
    2. physical appearance
    3. projected confidence
    4. communication ability
    5. engagement skills
    6. interpersonal integrity
    7. values-in-action
    8. intellect and expertise
    9. outcome delivery ability
    10. coercive power use
  • perceptions are primarily based on first impressions (Dagley & Gaskin, 2014; http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000011).


In 2012 the Executive Presence Group, sponsored by American Express, Bloomberg, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Ernst & Young, Gap Inc., Goldman Sachs, Interpublic Group, Marie Claire, and Moody’s Foundation, surveyed 268 senior executives.  They cited executive presence (leadership material) as an essential component to advancing in the company.  It accounted for about 25% of the promotion equation.  Further research conducted in 18 focus groups, nearly 4,000 college-graduate professionals and 50+ one-on-one interviews with high-level executives, highlighted the following:

  1. 67 percent of the 268 senior executives identified gravitas as the core characteristic (including, grace under fire”;  Acting decisively and “showing teeth”; Showing integrity and “speaking truth to power”; Burnishing reputation; and,  Projecting vision.
  2. Communication (Great speaking skills, Ability to command a room, Ability to read an audience).  
  3. Appearance (Good grooming and Physical attractiveness).


Research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified the number of women in the group found as the only high predictor of a group’s creativity and effectiveness.  Also, companies with women on their boards consistently outperformed those with all-male boards according to the Credit Suisse Research Institute (Hewlett, Leader-Chivée, Sherbin, Gordon, & Dieudonné; 2013).

Executive presence can be improved through having a vision and articulating it; building your communication skills, and cultivating your network.  For more visit https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/07/31/executive-presence-what-is-it-why-you-need-it-and-how-to-get-it/#7b3421ec6bc7 .  

Plant your seeds for cultivating your executive presence by obtaining a copy of Be Prepared and other works at  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfPWaPCJ0vE  .

Photos courtesy of Rohit Reddy, Andrew Robinson and John Jackson on Unsplash.

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