7 signs that you might lack executive presence

Cultivating a leadership presence is one of the biggest challenges a new manager faces, yet it’s a skill every leader needs to succeed.  

At its core, executive presence is about your ability to inspire confidence and trust. Your executive presence (or lack thereof) can determine whether employees trust you, peers consider you reliable, and leaders recommend you for the next promotion.

But because executive presence centers around how others perceive you, it can be difficult to know whether you have it. We rounded up a few red flags that suggest you need to cultivate your executive presence.

1: You falter under pressure

Leaders with executive presence are calm and composed—even under intense pressure. If you seem flustered, you send a message to your leaders that you can't handle any more responsibility, warns Gerry Valentine, an executive coach. And if you have a reputation for losing your patience, you may lose the trust and loyalty of your team.

2: You send the wrong body signals

The most effective leaders use their body language to strengthen their message and engage their audience. The wrong nonverbal cues can weaken your argument and make you seem nervous or defensive, warns Amy Tez, a communications trainer. 

To seem confident and composed during a meeting or presentation, keep a straight posture and use open, controlled hand gestures, she recommends. And take care not to fidget or dart your eyes around the room. If you project confidence with your body language, you'll seem more self-assured and in control.

Keep reading: 8 body language mistakes sending the wrong signals to your colleagues

3: You ramble

Leaders with an executive presence can clearly communicate their vision to different stakeholders, writes Valentine. But when you ramble or over-explain, you may sound indecisive or unsure.

Keep your messages (whether verbal or written) clear and to the point, recommends Valentine. If you're unsure which communication skills you need to improve, get feedback from your peers, employees, and leaders on how you can better communicate to different audiences and in different situations, he suggests.

4: You don't look the part

People form first impressions partly based on your appearance. Ensure your appearance is appropriate for the setting and consistent with how other leaders in your organization or industry present themselves. And choose outfits that make you feel good, adds Tez. When your outfit makes you feel confident, you'll appear more confident, too. 

5: You don't listen

Effective leaders aren't just great speakers, they're also exceptional listeners, writes Valentine. If you practice active listening and ask thoughtful questions, you demonstrate self-confidence and commitment to your employees, he adds.

6: You don't know your value

Confidence and self-esteem lie at the heart of executive presence, argues executive coach Mary Lee Gannon. When leaders doubt their abilities, they may brag about their accomplishments or take credit for their team's work to seem more competent, she writes.

You can start to build your confidence by identifying the unique value and perspective you bring to your work, recommends Tez. If you don't believe in your ability to lead others, you won't be able to convince others to follow your lead.

7: You don't invest in your network

Leaders with executive presence know how to steer conversations around campus to reach consensus and advance their team's goals. To build your influence as a leader, you need to invest in your network on campus, writes Valentine. Effective leaders also use their connections to find opportunities to collaborate and win support from different stakeholders, he adds (Valentine, Forbes, 7/31; Tez, Medium, 8/21/2017; Gannon, Ladders, 10/3).


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