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How to Crack the Code of Executive Presence

When you understand this secret of emotional intelligence, you will finally be able to truly unlock your Executive Presence

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Have you ever felt the cognitive disconnect that occurs when a high-level leader has little to no Executive Presence?

There are plenty of leaders, who despite being talented in some areas, do not inspire their followers. On the other end of the spectrum, have you noticed how some people, regardless of their age or title, have tons of Executive Presence? Others will often assume that this person is the one in charge, when in fact, they are not.

What’s going on here? And how can you get more of this elusive trait?

There are plenty of ways to try. Let’s start with a fairly common one – scouring the Internet for advice from articles, videos, or training. Chances are, unless you already have Executive Presence, you will be disappointed. The reason is most leadership training does not address the underlying mechanism that generates Executive Presence. Instead, it relies on studying the behaviors and attributes of those who have it. Unfortunately, mimicry does not equal mastery. A few examples of this principle come to mind – karoake, air guitar, and flight simulators.

How about going to a real person — a trusted expert? Ask a friend or colleague who has oodles of Executive Presence how they generate it. Chances are, they will not be of much help, either. This is likely because they may not really understand how they generate it. In an attempt to be helpful, they may give you some suggestions based on what they do. More often than not, these suggestions will not have the same impact for you. This is because your awareness and timing, as well as the context must align with the situation. Any attempts to transplant another leader’s moves or “act” like a leader generally feel forced or fake.

The Code

What’s going on here? Why does this have to be so difficult?

It’s as if those who have “it” either don’t want to share the secret or more likely, don’t actually understand how it is generated — this is the Code of Executive Presence.

“If you can’t explain the mechanism behind how something works, you can’t get more of it.”

The Shift

The problem with these typical approaches to Executive Presence is they are mostly focused on “doing” or “looking” like a leader. All presence, including that from Executive Presence, is based on “feeling.” In other words, how someone feels about you. When it comes to Executive Presence, it’s not just any feeling, it’s a specific feeling.

“Executive Presence is the ability to inspire confidence that you can lead well in a given situation.”

Once you understand that a) Executive Presence relies on feelings and b) the specific feeling is confidence in your leadership ability, the solution to cracking the Code begins to become clear.

To generate Executive Presence, to truly generate it, abandon any attempt at looking, sounding, or moving like a prototypical executive. While playing into stereotypes of a leader might give you a boost or even fool some people, a stereotype is not based on substance.

The thin veneer of this simulated Executive Presence will be easily pierced by more savvy colleagues and perhaps more importantly, will fail you in those moments, like during a crisis, when you most need it.

Instead, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What state of being do I need to be in to lead?
  • What mindset will facilitate the best cooperation?
  • What attitude will bring out the best in others?

Though they seem intuitively sound, don’t fall for the “doing” or “looking” like a leader traps. To crack the Code of Executive Presence, concentrate on “feeling” like a leader so in turn, others will feel you are a leader. You still need to act, but your actions will have infinitely more power when they flow from a leader’s state of being.

Remember, your feelings are what have the biggest impact on how others feel. Lastly, here’s the secret of emotional intelligence that will help you unlock your Executive Presence:

The better you are at being aware of and managing your own feelings, the more success you will have with others.


Learn more

This article was adapted from the new leadership book, Unlock Your Executive Presence: Feel like a Boss. Find it here, along with other books from the Unlock Your Leadership series.

Joe Kwon, the Connection Counselor is a leadership coach and keynote speaker who helps elevate careers by unlocking your ability to better connect with yourself and others.

Contact him if you’d like his help.

To find out more and to access free leadership videos, podcasts, and guides, go to www.connectioncounselor.com.

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