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The Benefits of Executive Presence

Posted on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 @ 03:39 PM

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The Benefits of Executive Presence: Use it to Generate a Positive Reputation Outside Your Inner Circle

By Sarah Woods

ripple effect

Toss a stone into a pond and watch what happens.  The ripples move out from the center growing larger as they swell before receding into the glassy surface of the water.  There’s something familiar and predictable about this pattern in nature.  But how does it apply to corporate leadership?

In a recent conversation with Keith Peden, SVP of Human Resources at Raytheon, a global technology and defense firm with 72,000 employees worldwide we talked about just that.  He referred to what he calls the “Concentric Circles of Leadership”.

In Keith’s view, if you are in a position of authority, influence or leadership those closest to you have the clearest sense of the motivations behind your actions and words.  Beyond this inner circle, employees in your organization interpret your words or actions without knowledge of your motivations, and therefore, without proper context. Here lies the greatest area of risk in communications.  According to Keith, “As the concentric circles radiate out and get bigger in size, the consequences get greater and have greater impact.”

How then can you influence the way you are perceived beyond your inner circle?

Executive presence. You know it when you see it.  That elusive “it” quality shared by great leaders throughout history. The way they walk onto a stage as though they belong there; or into a room as if everyone is a friend.  They are polished, positive, direct, professional and authentic.  They look you in the eye, and they seem to understand.

Not only do they come off as strong, confident and in control, they are wonderful to be around!  When you’re with a leader who’s got “it”, YOU feel strong, confident and more in control…inspired, really. 

What leaders with great executive presence understand that we can all learn from is the concept of “the ripple effect”.  How a common sum of qualities and competencies that create this “presence” can impact hundreds if not thousands of people in your organization…even if you never personally interact with them.

No one is born with it.  Every leader can adopt the common attributes of great executive presence.  Every leader can influence the way they are perceived throughout their organization.  It’s a simple as 7 key elements.

  1. Substance – Whether in verbal or written communication, make sure your message and language are clear, concise, interesting, informative and intelligent.
  2. Personal Style – Your wardrobe and grooming speaks volumes about your leadership presence.  Make sure you dress in a polished, appropriate manner and set the standard for your organization.
  3. Physical Presence – If you’ve ever received bad news from someone who is smiling, you know how important body language and facial expressions are to clear communications.  Align your non-verbal and verbal messages, and be sure to demonstrate energy, vitality, confidence and ease.
  4. Vocal Skill – Like body language, the way you use your voice will dramatically impact interpretation of your meaning.  Control the way others receive your message through tone, pace, volume and inflection.  Maintain a clear, pleasant, expressive and confident tone.
  5. Manners/Etiquette – Have you ever noticed how great leaders seem to demonstrate elegance, finesse and ease regardless of the challenges they deal with?   They understand the rules of business etiquette, and they respect those rules.  They are gracious, grateful, generous and thoughtful.
  6. Listen, listen and listen more – Be receptive to new information, listen attentively and make yourself available.  Encourage expression by engaging when others speak and listening without judgment.
  7. Workspace – Consider the impact of your own personal space – if you’re suit is custom tailored, your car is a fine European model, but your desk is a cluttered mess, what will be remembered most?  Your building, office and desk should be clean, organized, pleasant and inviting, reflecting your professionalism.

As you develop your own leadership style, consider “the ripple effect”.  Put yourself into the shoes of those members of the company who are at the furthest rings in the concentric circles; and deliver your messages to them with awareness of all 7 elements of your executive presence in mind.  Imagine how inspired they will be!

Tags: Strategy to Execution, Developing Leaders, Articles, Executive Presence, CEO Perspectives