When we think of a leader, we envision a white, tall, assertive male, someone that fits the typical CEO archetype.
Indeed, many of the presumptive signals that someone is leadership material, such as being aggressive, assertive, commanding the room, having grey hair, are still embedded in our workplace stereotypes of power.
The fact that 94% of Fortune 500 CEOs are male easily explains this erroneous stereotype.
Interestingly, research has proven that an aggressive personality and other typically male traits don’t equate to good leadership. Some call it personal brand, others refer to it as executive presence, or the commonly referred to “it factor”.
Simply put, it’s a combination of intelligence, credibility, and other intangible skills that make you not only relatable, but also extremely effective in a senior position. It’s that spark that inspires people around you and gets them to act towards a common goal.
Your presence in the boardroom, at a dinner table, on social media, all culminate to your very own personal brand. It has nothing to do with performance; it’s more of a measure of communication and image.
This exact executive presence is what determines a person’s ability to grow in their career and influence others. It’s your signal to the world that you have what it takes to get the job done.
Please don’t confuse personal brand with personality. Our fundamental personality isn’t meant to be transformed; it’s about adopting specific practices and performing minor tweaks in order to reflect even more confidence, character and poise.
The importance of executive presence in the workplace
Executive presence won’t launch your career, however, its absence may hold you back.
In a study by the Center for Talent Innovation, a large majority of senior executives surveyed said that executive presence counts for 26% of what it takes to get promoted.
Even more so, research shows that women were less likely to get performance feedback on aspects of executive presence, making it even more difficult for them to develop and foster this skill.
By fully understanding the fundamental components of executive presence, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the often contradictory messages around what makes someone leadership material.
Building your personal brand
Some people seem to naturally have what it takes to be an exceptional leader. However, don’t worry; just like any other skillset, executive presence can be developed, cultivated and practiced by anybody.
Talent experts have broken it down to three specific factors: gravitas, communication, and image.
Gravitas by definition fosters respect and recognition as it signifies you’re intelligent and knowledgeable in your field.
Becoming an expert in your field is a surefire way to boost your confidence and showcase talent in front of colleagues. Connecting with others and being at ease building a network are other ways to naturally add to your own personal gravitas.
Great communication and presentation skills are another factor crucial to executive presence. Whilst most people frankly admit hating public speaking, it’s unfortunately a key element in building a strong “it factor”.
Practicing is crucial so start small with team meetings and small talk, and work your way up to larger groups. There are plenty of opportunities daily to get comfortable speaking in front of an audience.
Workwear that inspires trust and confidence may seem like a small detail but honestly it goes a long way. It’s about having the cultural intelligence to know what elicits respect and authority in any specific field.
Looking polished and groomed cultivates a professional and trustworthy image and adds once again to your executive presence.
Certified Image & Etiquette Consultant – AICI
Fashion Director – CP magazine