Executive Presence
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Strengthen Your Executive Presence

Your executive presence consists of how others at work perceive you. You can fine-tune it by considering the type of employee and leader you want to be and then finding ways to work toward that goal.

By Allison Torres Burtka

How do you want to be perceived by your colleagues, employees, and supervisors? Do they look at you that way? To answer those questions, you need to consider your executive presence. Executive presence includes your competence, confidence, and charisma—how you come across to others.

Why should you care about your executive presence? It can make or break your chances to be influential in your organization, to be considered a leader, and to be thought of when new opportunities arise, according to Carol Vernon, a certified executive coach and principal of Communication Matters. Defining your executive presence “allows others to see how strong an employee you are,” she says.

You should work on developing your executive presence regardless of where you are in your career. “A strengthened, fine-tuned executive presence is for everyone,” from junior professionals to senior leaders, Vernon says.

To start this process, ask yourself how you perceive strong leadership in your organization. What makes a good leader? From there, “clarify how you want to be perceived and how you want to work as a leader,” Vernon says. Then size yourself up. Vernon recommends asking these questions:

  • What am I doing that is working?
  • How am I perceived by the association’s board, members, and stakeholders?
  • What could I be doing more of?
  • What do I need to be doing less of?

Your executive presence can make or break your chances to be influential in your organization, to be considered a leader, and to be thought of when new opportunities arise.

To assess yourself honestly, you’re going to need feedback from people you work with. Junior and mid-career association professionals are more likely to receive feedback routinely, as part of their interactions with their supervisors, that can help answer these questions. But “as you become more senior, you get less feedback,” Vernon notes, adding that senior leaders often don’t get feedback until it’s too late. So senior executives might need to make more of an effort to seek out feedback to assess themselves—to complete what Vernon calls an executive presence audit.

Regardless of your position, you can use this feedback to create your own “presence statement.” Vernon suggests: “Be very intentional about your presence.” Especially if you are early in your career or mid-career, you should get specific about what you plan to do. “Focus on one or two things that you can do differently that will allow yourself to be perceived” in the way you want to be perceived, she says.

Being aware of your executive presence—and working to strengthen it—can help you put your best foot forward.

Allison Torres Burtka is a longtime association journalist and freelance writer in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Email: [email protected]

Career Development