5 Ways to Improve Your Executive Presence and Accelerate Your Career

Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett made a startling discovery during her research a couple of years ago:

“[W]omen were leaving or languishing [in their careers], and not really making it into senior leadership…. Their performance was undistinguishable from their white, male, straight peers. What these male peers had was they belonged to the mainstream leadership culture. They knew how to present themselves in ways that really worked in the cultures they were in.” – Sylvia Ann Hewlett in the Washington Post

This finding was the impetus for her book, Executive Presence, which is a great read for anyone who is not part of the “old boys club,” including minorities and young men and women who are just getting started in their careers.

Executive presence was always a fuzzy term, so Hewlett and her team set out to define it. In short, executive presence encompass the signals you send to your coworkers and bosses about your leadership abilities. It includes 3 elements:

  1. Gravitas: how you act
  2. Communication skills: how you speak.
  3. Appearance: how you look

If you want to move ahead in your career or grow your business, you absolutely need executive presence. Here’s what you can do to increase it:

Improve your speaking style

Hewlett urges you to be concise, compelling, and commanding when speaking or giving a presentation. Avoid relying on notes or long PowerPoints. Also use the same trick Margaret Thatcher did and lower your voice an octave – it works.

Focus on being polished

When it comes to appearance, hair style and designer clothes don’t make a difference. Rather, people notice if you are well-groomed, polished, and appropriate for the office.

Use humor

Making tough decisions is part of being a leader, but it can also make you unlikable. To avoid being pigeon-holed as a heartless jerk, use humor to take the sting out of the message.

Ask for feedback

Tell your boss point-blank that you would like to receive straightforward feedback on how you can improve your body language, communication skills, and appearance and that you won’t take it personally.

Learn more about body language

It has been found that 93% of our communication is non-verbal, while only 7% is verbal. Do some research on body language to understand the signals you send when you stand or hold your arms a certain way. You might be surprised!

What might happen in your career if you developed more executive presence?  Contact us to learn more about your emotional intelligence and how it relates to your executive presence.  Each area can be improved with increased self awareness and focus.

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Phone(703) 434-3990

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