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Executive Presence: What It Is and How to Develop It

by The Leadership Development Group

You’ve likely heard leaders being described as either having or lacking “executive presence.” You might even agree that it’s important to have, yet uncertain about how to define it. If this rings true for you, know you are not alone. In a survey of more than 350 human relations (HR) professionals, 92% agreed that executive presence is an important part of leadership, but 51% of respondents also said that it’s difficult to define. 

We’re defining executive presence and sharing a few tips for leaders to develop their executive presence. Keep reading to gain some new insights.

What is Executive Presence? 

Simply put, executive presence includes having—and projecting—high self-confidence, a sense of being able to take control of difficult situations, and the capability to make tough decisions, like leading a group through a team restructure or adopting a value-based care model. Leaders who demonstrate executive presence create strong cultures that result in increased engagement and retention.  

Research shows that there are three main factors in executive presence: interpersonal aptitude, professional affect, and technical competence. 

  • Interpersonal aptitude: Interpersonal aptitude is the ability to relate to and effectively interact with other people. Leaders who display interpersonal aptitude often have a high level of emotional intelligence and are able to keep their focus on the people they’re leading. 
  • Professional affect: This is how a person appears to others. It includes demonstrating to your team members that you are competent in both people and technical skills. 
  • Technical competence: Technical competence is having the knowledge, skills, and experience related to your position that will help achieve your organization’s goals. For an HR executive in the healthcare ecosystem, for example, these skills may include developing and implementing institutional procedures and translating strategic plans into operational plans of action.

Why Executive Presence Matters 

In general, executive presence can increase an organization’s overall performance, help leaders better manage their teams, and enable smoother interactions with colleagues and customers. 

In the healthcare industry, where high-stress situations arise frequently, leaders with strong executive presence can help ease their teammates' concerns by demonstrating competence, confidence, and composure. This can enable better patient engagement, encourage employee engagement and productivity, and enhance collaboration among diverse stakeholders.

Additionally, because of these qualities, leaders with executive presence are often well trusted by their colleagues. If your organization makes a move toward value-based care or an investment in health equity, team members may be more willing to follow—and even look forward to—changes. 

5 Ways to Develop Your Executive Presence

Here’s some good news. While executive presence does involve personality and character traits, it’s also a skill that can be developed. We’ve compiled 5 steps for leaders to build their executive presence.

1. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. 

A part of developing executive presence is having self awareness and knowing your assets and vulnerabilities. To develop this, you can consider what's challenging, and what feels natural, for you around leadership. Additional approaches include asking trusted team members or mentors for feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, or taking an executive presence assessment like the Bates ExPi.

2. Establish and share your vision. 

A large part of inspiring confidence in others is having a well-established vision for what you want your team or organization to accomplish. To establish this vision, consider your big-picture, long-term goals for your team. After coming up with a few concrete goals, share them with your colleagues and ask for their feedback. 

3. Practice clear communication. 

Good leaders give clear instructions and feedback across all mediums, whether it’s in-person, virtually, or over an email or brief message. Practice giving concise instructions and constructive feedback with a positive attitude to help your colleagues understand your expectations and become more motivated to achieve the vision. 

4. Demonstrate your willingness to listen. 

Leaders with a strong executive presence don’t just communicate through words, but through hearing what their team members are saying. Show the people around you that you’re listening well by turning away from distractions like your phone or computer, making eye contact, and asking follow-up questions.

5. Get help from an outside source. 

As we’ve established, executive presence is important to have, but difficult to define and develop. Having guidance from an outside source like an executive coach can help leaders better understand their strengths and where they need to grow, and how to get to the next level of executive presence. 

Grow your executive presence with support from the experts at TLD Group.

Our global team of experts includes management psychologists, certified physician and executive coaches, and tenured consultants. Our faculty are trained in executive presence and certified in tools like Bates ExPi to help develop leaders across the health ecosystem. Get in touch today.

Topics: Leadership Development, Healthcare Ecosystem, Leadership, Executive Coaching, Executive Presence