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How to develop executive presence

Executive presence. What is it? Is it something only for the chief officer of companies, leaders or people who have been in business for a while? The short answer is no. Executive presence is a skill that people can fine-tune, and it may take some time, but anyone can have executive presence. Let’s take a closer look at what it entails and how you can work on having a better executive presence in your space.

What is executive presence?

According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett in her book, Executive Presence: the missing link between merit and success, there are three aspects to master in executive presence. They are:


This aspect considers the way you carry yourself in public. When you consider adversity are you calm and controlled, or do you go into a flap? If you make a mistake, can you admit it and learn from it? Are you able to get back in the saddle after you have been knocked off? Secondly, when it comes to decision making are you assertive to the point of being overly authoritarian or do you listen, weigh up the options and then act? Emotional intelligence is critical when you deal with others. Lastly, are you true to who you are? People admire authentic people who are human and behave in a relatable way.


Are you aware that your body speaks louder than your words? According to experts between 70% – 90% of communication is non-verbal. This means that before people hear your words, they have drawn some conclusions from your body language and the way the words sound coming out of your mouth. It is therefore important to be aware of your body and the tone of your voice when you are communicating.


Yes, we have people who want to stick it to the system and dress differently in corporate environments but what you wear says a lot about you. Even though you may be the most qualified individual in the room if you dress like you are late for a gym class people will make an assumption about what you have to say. We judge people by their covers, so choose wisely for the situation you find yourself in.

How to improve your executive presence?

Now that we know what executive presence, how can you work on it?

1. Look internally

First, we need to take a serious look at ourselves and determine if we have executive presence. We may have a small amount, or we may be crushing it but if you want to achieve something you need to know your starting point.

2. Set a goal

Having executive presence can be loud and proud or strong and commanding. Both types of people are able to get the attention of the world. It is important to look for a leader you can look up to. Read their biographies and see where they were and where they are now. This will help you to set a goal for executive presence.

3. Get comfortable with adversity

You will have challenges in your life and how you handle them will help to build or break down your presence. As you learn from challenges, you will become more confident and calmer when adversity arrives at your doorstep. This will take time, but it is important to work your way through adversity so that you can learn and build for the future.

4. Listen to your tone

Does your tone change under stressful situations? Often people’s voices become more high-pitched when they become uncomfortable in a situation. To minimise this, you should practice what you want to say, and you should record your voice. This will let you hear your voice, and you will be able to adjust it accordingly.

5. Know your body

As we mentioned earlier, our body can tell people a lot about what we are truly thinking. With this in mind, we need to become more aware of our bodies and how we stand, hold our heads and where we put our hands. If you have a habit of crossing your arms in front of you when you stand then you may want to try to put them behind your back or loosely on the side. Standing with crossed arms can look like you aren’t welcoming to the person you are speaking to. If you operate in a global market, you should also become aware of how body language differs in other cultures.

6. Dress to impress

You need to choose clothes which show you are serious about what you do. You should be neat and tidy and try not to dress too quirky. If you choose to dress quirky make sure it doesn’t make you stand out like a sore thumb, and no one wants to talk to you.

These are a few ways you can work on improving your executive presence so that you will be heard and respected.

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