“Executive presence” has been a buzzword lately in our executive coaching sessions and workshops. Sylvia Ann Hewlett wrote the book on it, outlining 3 pillars of executive presence. In Episode #58 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry share their insights on these 3 pillars, warning of potential pitfalls to your executive presence that must be avoided.
To cultivate leadership development on your team, consider bringing a 5 Levels of Leadership Workshop to your organization this year.
Read Transcript Below:
Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach. And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. Just as a quick reminder, if you’d like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or bring a 5 Levels workshop to your organization, please go to johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast and, while you’re there, if you have a comment or question for Perry and me, we’d love for you to leave it there.
Well, today’s topic is titled “You May Have Presence, But Is It Executive Presence?” I really liked the sound of this. It comes up a lot in our coaching work. More and more, I’m noticing that the leaders we coach are asking about the topic of executive presence.They want it, but I’m not sure they know what exactly it is or how to get it. I think it’s something that every leader should possess, and I don’t think you need to wait till you get to the C suite to think about executive presence. And I think some of the things that we’re going to cover today will kind of lead to the fact that it’s important for every one of us as a leader to have this type of presence. Executive presence is how you are viewed when you come in a room, how you interact with people more senior than you and people at your level. It can be a game changer in how people see you.
There are many great resources on the topic. I know I’ve really enjoyed Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. There’s some great information there. She says there that executive presence rests on three pillars: how you act (what she calls “gravitas”), how you speak, and how you look. I can see this in myself and others. Sometimes I’ve heard it said, “Oh, well he or she just has the ‘it factor.'” What we’re going to talk about today is more than just having “it.” It’s a learned behavior that hopefully, through this podcast and other resources, you’ll be able to develop. We want to teach you how to align your behavior with the three pillars above. In doing so, you will build trust with your people.
One of our facilitators gives a great example of executive presence. They said, “The most effective leader, the one that probably has the most powerful executive presence, is the leader that walks into the room, and when they leave, although they probably were the smartest person in the room, and they probably had the most executive presence, I feel smarter. I feel like I have a better executive presence.”
So, the first pillar that Sylvia Ann Hewlett talks about is “gravitas.” It’s a really interesting word. If you’re not familiar, what it means is having an air of dignity or seriousness. The word gravity is associated with heaviness; gravitas means you carry weight. When you come in the room, you’re noticed. And I love that. When you come into a room, and you know your stuff, if somebody rejects what you’re saying or disagrees with you, you’re not rattled. You stand strong. You don’t have to think you’re right, but you can defend yourself because you’ve got self-confidence and a bit of a grace under fire. I love that. If things start falling apart around you, you don’t even flinch. Another quality of executive presence is you don’t mind “showing your teeth” when making a decision. Other qualities are integrity, emotional intelligence, good reputation–those types of things. With all this in mind, we’d like to get into what gets in the ways of these characteristics.
What can derail you from exhibiting strong, executive presence? When you talk about gravitas, there’s a couple of things that come to mind that could derail a leader from achieving that. A big risk is making others uncomfortable. I want to make sure everyone knows we’re not talking about inflating our ego or being a bully. You might have the “it” factor, but you don’t need to walk in and tell everybody you have the it factor! It should just come across. How many time have you been around a leader and you’re thinking, “I didn’t ask how you made the watch. I just asked you what time it is.” You can derail your gravitas by talking too much or about the wrong topics.
Another way to derail executive presence is blaming others. “Sorry, we missed our number. It was my sales team over here.” We can’t pass the buck. Lastly, the final risk we like to talk about is just being distant. Like we said, when you’re in the room, people should be able to feel it. Another big risk factor and kind of the opposite of the last one is inappropriate behavior. Unfortunately, we see this come up over and over and over again lately in the news. One of the fastest ways for you to lose your entire team’s trust is to display some type of inappropriate behavior. This includes inappropriate humor. This is an easy way to lose your team’s trust and distance yourself from them. I once had it written on my wall that “it’s okay to be humorous, but without folly.” People appreciate humor, but not folly. Don’t be silly or inappropriate.
That was the first pillar: how you act, or “gravitas.” The second pillar is about how you communicate. We’ve already touched on this a bit. We mentioned talking too much. The most effective communication is concise and compelling. So, if you’re talking about things that are meaningful, and you are concise with your words, you can command a room. Remember to facilitate, or read the room. You should know if you’re being received well, and if you’re not, you know to stop, slow down, or change directions, because you’re reading and everybody’s on their cell phone! Be assertive in your communication. Again, sense of humor comes up. People love that. But, again, make sure it’s appropriate. A big part of communication is body language. How do you present yourself in the room? Like we said, don’t appear distant. Be sure you’re standing with good posture, you’re making good eye contact, and you’re paying attention to what you’re doing with your hands. When you walk into a room, you’ve got gravitas, and people will notice. What I want our listeners to be thinking about is that when we say “walk into a room,” you could be going in to talk to your team, you could be going in to have a one-on-one conversation. When you go into that room, no matter how many people are there, these lessons apply.
You mentioned cell phones earlier. All of us have smart phones and devices and all kinds of gadgets with us everywhere. Constantly checking your device is a huge way to derail your executive presence. We’ve all been in meetings before where you wonder whether someone is even paying attention in a meeting, whether they’re “checking their email” on their laptop or they’re on Facebook. It doesn’t feel good to wonder that, especially when you’re the one presenting in the meeting. So, we need to make sure that we’re in the moment. When John walks into a room, whether it’s 1 person, whether it’s 5, 500, or 5,000, he has the innate ability to make it feel like he’s talking directly to you. So, how do you have conversations with people to where they feel like they’re the only person in the room? How do we get that executive presence? Again, these are learned skills that maybe we’ve got to work on to improve our communication. I was just leading a session recently on the topic of “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions.” John connects with people in the audience by asking great questions and being interactive at an individual level. He draws people in with his eye contact, with his voice, with his questions. It really does make you feel like he’s speaking straight to you.
Pillar number three is about appearance. It’s the third and perhaps the least important, but your appearance is the first aspect about yourself that is noticed. When you walk into a room, whether you’re entering a team meeting or the C suite, people will notice your appearance right away. So, how you look can either jumpstart or derail your gravitas. While your appearance should not make or break your success, it is worth it to make sure you are groomed and polished. Have you taken a moment to put yourself together? Do you clothes fit right? Do you carry yourself well? Are you slumped over? Are you shuffling your feet? Is that dress appropriate for the audience you’re going to see? I know so many people are showing up to events today in blue jeans and sport coats. I actually love that, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for all audiences. Consider that what you wear becomes your personal brand. If you’re a brand, what do you want people to think when they see you?
As we move towards the end of this podcast, we want to share some final suggestions on how to work on your executive presence. Number one: it’s always good to have feedback from those you trust. John talks a lot about having an inner circle. You should feel open to asking your inner circle if they feel like you have executive presence. If not, ask them what you are missing. Additionally, maybe you have a coach or mentor, just like we provide here at The John Maxwell Company. You can ask them, “Hey, how do I improve my executive presence?” Don’t be afraid to ask that question. Lastly, just make sure you have humility. None of this will happen over night. It takes time and intentionality to develop it.
Thank you for your great insights, Chris, and just a reminder for our listeners: if you’d like to learn more about this topic or the 5 Levels of Leadership, or look into having a 5 Levels workshop at your location, you can always learn more about that on our website at johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast. We always enjoy hearing from you ,and we always enjoy having you listen along to our podcasts. Thank you very much. This has been the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.
Thank you for listening to our Podcasts!
Leave us your questions below! Also, if you have suggestions for future podcast topics or would like to talk with Chris Goede about helping your company submit your feedback!
We round out our three-part series on perspective by uncovering the last four of John Maxwell's 11 perspective principles.
In Episode 88 of our podcast, we continue exploring John's 11-part approach on perspective and share tips for choosing and changing your perspective.
In Episode 87 of our podcast, we provide important perspective principles that can help leaders in times of adversity and crisis.
How to leaders turn trying times into a better experience? The answer is being intentional.
We discuss the three key aspects of a personal development plan and the critical success factors for putting it into action.
In Episode #84 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, learn how insider outsider dynamics might be killing engagement on your team.
It's possible for two people to view adversity differently and have two completely different responses to that adversity.
In the midst of an adversity crisis, we can find opportunity. It’s all about the power perspective!
Right now, more than ever, we need to be leaning in on that influence to help people through this time of change.
During the COVID-19 global crisis, leadership will be revealed and where leadership is most needed. Learn more in Episode 80 of our podcast.
In Episode #79 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we continue the conversation on what it means to be an inspiring leader with Chris Fuller.
In Episode #78 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we discuss what it means to be an inspiring leader and how to build an engaged workforce.
In Episode #77 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore some of the triggers that can affect attitude and what leaders can do to improve.
In Episode #75 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we discuss the essential topic of feedback, and how to create a feedback culture for your organization.
In Episode #74, Chris and Perry continue speaking with Stacey Speller, and offer seven things that women can do to maximize their leadership.
Good thinkers solve problems. They never lack for ideas, and they always have hope for a better future. In Episode #72, Chris and Perry explain how the way people think is the one thing that separates successful people from unsuccessful people.
People are influenced by what you do for the organization. In Episode #71, Chris and Perry look at 7 ways you can increase your influence by making your team better.
In Episode #70, Chris and Perry explain the 80-10-10 rule of telling, teaching, and coaching, and how applying it to your leadership can boost your team's performance and engagement.
In Episode #69, Chris and Perry go over a few tips and habits to make yourself more accountable and find success in the new year.
In Episode #68, Chris and Perry discuss the importance of delegating problem-solving and decision-making so that your organization can thrive.
In Episode #67, Chris and Perry go through 5 key habits of elite performers and discuss how incorporating these habits will not only develop yourself as a leader but your team as individuals.
In Episode #66, Chris and Perry stress having a "growth mindset" and show us what leaders can learn from the performance habits of elite athletes.
In Episode #65 of the Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry address the question, "Do I really need to have a vision?" Yes! Here's how you can make your team vision a reality.
In Episode #64 of the Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry explain the importance of working ON your business and how you can shift your focus to the big picture to improve your organization.
In Episode #63 of the Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry explain 3 strategies for facilitating motivation that will create a workplace where your team values working.
In Episode #62 of the Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry lay out 10 strategies for connecting with others that will turn you into a world-class networker.
In Episode #61 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry examine the key differences between rules and standards and regulations and expectations, and how making the switch will boost your organization's satisfaction, independence, and overall excellence.
In Episode #60 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we discuss the importance of having a succession plan and building a strong bench.
In Episode #59 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we discuss a tough decision we face as leaders--to be vulnerable or to armor up.
In Episode #58 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we discuss how to strengthen your executive presence and potential pitfalls to avoid.
In Episode #57 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry discuss various behavioral and personality assessments.
In Episode #56 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry discuss how to make sure that "the door is always open" is not just a slogan but a reality for your team members.
In Episode #55 of John Maxwell's Executive Leadership Podcast, we challenge you to ask your team 10 questions about your leadership that can tell you whether or not you are a "teachable leader."
In Episode #54 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we challenge you to better yourself as a leader by asking yourself 5 key questions.
In Episode #53 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we challenge you to "Dare to be Dumb" by asking more questions.
In Episode #52 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we discuss the important steps that leaders should take in order to successfully develop their team.
In Episode #51 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we discuss how you can "hang around the hoop" as a leader to achieve results.
In Episode #50 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, consider ways in which we can support persistence and consistency in our organizations and in ourselves.
In Episode #49 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we discuss how you can take your team to the next level.
In Episode #48 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how you can become an effective second, third, or fourth-line leader.
In Episode #47 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how you can become a leader in your organization without a title.
In Episode #46 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how leaders can intentionally and attainably set goals that work towards the big picture.
In Episode #45 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we examine how a leader can grow from being a visionary to a vision caster for their organization.
In Episode #44 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we how leaders can begin setting priorities by rising above the noise of the urgent.
In Episode #43 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore 3 sets of 3 tools that leaders can use to drive employee engagement.
In Episode #42 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how leaders can become agents of change for both themselves and for their organizations.
In Episode #41 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how to use listening as a tool for showing value to people.
In Episode #40 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore the characteristics of highly accountable people.
In Episode #39 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how leaders can win, influence, and connect with those around them
In Episode #38 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore some of the strengths and struggles that millennials have in the workplace today.
In Episode #37 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore the three key behaviors of high engagement leaders with Fernando Campos of Peoples Mortgage.
Fernando Campos will share how People’s Mortgage puts “people first” and why the power of perspective is so crucial when it comes to generational and cross-cultural leadership.
In our podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley explain the importance of perception and offer five questions that leaders can ask themselves to help bridge the IP Gaps within their teams.
In this episode of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley share the remaining half truths of employee engagement.
There are many “half” truths that leaders like to believe. In Episode #33 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we reveal the first five of these half truths and how they play a role in your team's engagement.
You can't manage time, but you can manage priorities and make sure that you are being productive with your time. In episode #32 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley discuss the Law of Priorities.
In episode #31 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley share their experiences with the often much dreaded 'performance review'!
It’s so easy to get caught up in today’s fast-paced world, that we often forget the most important part of being a leader: helping our team members reach their full potential.
In this episode, Chris Goede and Perry Holley explore authentic leadership, including four simple truths that leaders can apply today.
Company culture is a big problem in organizations across the world, and having a positive one can be a huge differentiator.
It’s important to acknowledge that people from different cultural backgrounds have different expectations of what leadership looks like.
We all have great intentions at the beginning of the year, but eventually we start making excuses when life gets in the way.
It’s the first time in history that we have five generations in the workforce. With that comes many opportunities, but also challenges for leaders today.
As we prepare to launch into the new year, we offer effective approach that can be used to evaluate your year and hit the ground running next year.
The biggest driver of engagement is empathy. In Episode #22 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore how leaders can build empathy as a skill.
In our podcast, we explore how leaders can build and maintain trust with their teams with actionable tips that can be applied today.
One of the most important things leaders can do when bringing their teams to full engagement is establish boundaries.
In Episode 19 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we’ll talk about engagement and why leaders must learn to stop stepping up and step back
In Episode of 18 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we’ll share tips for making sure momentum stays where it’s at and business continues to stay on track in good times and bad.
In order to be authentic, the first thing you need to do is to really understand yourself so that you can lead and communicate effectively with your team.
Listen to Episode 16 of our Executive Leadership Podcast for some tools that will help you with difficult conversations and create lasting, productive relationships with your team.
Everybody is busy, but busy doing what? Though they often get used synonymously, there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive.
We'll explore the importance of feedback -- meaning feedback not only that we ask for, but also the feedback we should give.
The John Maxwell Company’s Perry Holley and Chris Goede explore five key questions that every coaching leader should ask themselves.
In Episode 12 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, The John Maxwell Company’s Perry Holley and Chris Goede discuss Level 4 in the Five Levels of Leadership.
In Episode 11 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Perry Holley and Chris Goede share tips for becoming a stronger Level 3 leader, which means focusing more on we and less on me.
Are you a momentum-building leader or a momentum-breaker? Listen to Episode 10 in our Executive Leadership Podcast to discover more.
In the next episode of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley will talk about what it takes to be a successful Level 3 leader, with the key being production.
In this episode of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley will talk about what it takes to be a successful Level 3 leader, with the key being production.
The John Maxwell Company offers a wide array of leadership development and management training built on the timeless principles of John C. Maxwell.
There are three questions that every follower is asking their leader: “Can you help me?”, “Do you care about me?”, and “Can I trust you?”
We’ve learned that people follow you because they have to at Level 1 of the 5 Levels of Leadership. Now, as a Level 2 leader, they're watching your every…
Episode 3: Perry Holley and Chris Goede share tips for creating a personal development plan that will help you grow as a leader and, in turn, grow your team.
The John Maxwell Company offers a wide array of leadership development and management training built on the timeless principles of John C. Maxwell.
In the first episode of our Executive Leadership podcast, Chris Goede introduces the Five Levels of Leadership, giving an overview of each level.