When it comes to moving ahead professionally, one of the keys to success is developing Executive Presence. This can mean different things to different people, but one thing that can be agreed on is that it is a critical skill – an X factor – that helps the bearer win a seat at the decision-making table.

So what is Executive Presence? And how does it compare to Confidence?

There is a plethora of content out there about what executive presence is:

  • “Executive presence is the ability to be in the centre of the room without hogging all the attention. Humility and humbleness create a balance between knowing and sharing expertise.”
  • “Executive presence is a combination of personal traits and outward behaviours that create an image of leadership competence and trustworthiness.”
  • “Executive presence is an art, like negotiation skills or acting. It’s fundamentally about developing your own original voice. It’s an art because it is deeply personal and must be refined and mastered over time through experimentation, failure and repeated execution.”

In our experience, executive presence is essentially the ability to exude the belief we have in ourselves and our abilities. This understanding and confidence is projected in how we present ourselves – a combination of values, behaviours, performance, influence, connection, presentation, authenticity.  In a nutshell, it’s personal brand and how well we non-verbally communicate that to the people around us.

Confidence is built on many of those attributes listed above – and that we talk about in Core Confidence. Being clear on your values; understanding your own behaviours and how they impact those around you; building relationships and connections; being authentic; how we communicate and so on.

Our behaviours and traits create the perception of our ability to lead ourselves, our teams and our organisations. If that perception is not displayed, if we hide our light instead of shining it, it can mean being passed over for promotions or other career opportunities. How we act, communicate and appear – the conscious, mindful ways we project ourselves when our core confidence is high – is our Executive Presence. They are inextricably linked.

So how do we communicate our presence and let it be seen? The great news is, Executive Presence is a learned capability, a skill we can develop with mindful, confident behaviours such as;

  1. Connect with others – maintain eye contact, participate in conversation, work on managing up as well as down
  2. Poise under pressure – slow down, take a breath, speak slowly with clarity and without panic
  3. Communication – learn to be assertive when needed, say no, use appropriate language and ensure a composed demeanour
  4. Read others and situations – it’s important not only to be aware of yourself but to connect in with what is happening around you. We talk about this in Chapter 6 – be focused and present
  5. Know your purpose and be present within self – if you know why you’re there and what you’re there for, everyone else will know it too

Executive presence is an important skill, rated as second in a list of twenty leadership traits that make a difference in a 2013 survey, so worth cultivating. Fortunately, the link between confidence and executive presence is tight, so building your core confidence means your executive presence won’t be far behind.