green board with thge word presence written on it- a hand underlines the word in black

Elevating your executive presence: The art of confident communication

Ever wondered what makes a successful leader truly stand out? Well, it’s all about that magical essence called “executive presence”. As a voice and confidence coach who works with executives and leaders every day, I’ve discovered there are a few elements that make a leader stand out from the crowd, and foremost is their inclusivity and how they communicate.

And I’m not alone in this thought.

Trailblazers like Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Executive Presence), Amy Cuddy, (Presence) and Caroline Goyder (Gravitas) all share the belief that confident communication can be your secret sauce to leadership success. So, let’s look at the links between confidence, communication, presence and leadership.

How presence plays into leadership success

Looking for your ticket to the corner office and a six-figure salary? Then you’d better spruce up your presence. In fact, if you think getting promoted is all about doing the hard yards and paying your dues, you’d be right… to a certain extent… but other factors also come into play.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett drops this surprising nugget in her book Executive Presence: “Executive presence (EP) accounts for as much as 28 per cent of what it takes to get promoted.”

Meanwhile, Amy Cuddy, author of one of my most-thumbed texts, Presence, chimes in with this gem: “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”

What about Caroline Goyder? Oh, she’s all about the gravitas, and she says it’s about how you use your words, your body language, and how you carry yourself.

What is executive presence?

But what exactly do we mean by executive presence? Over the past decade, attitudes towards executive presence have shifted.

In a 2022 article in Harvard Business Review Hewlett writes:

The old ideal—shaped and embodied by white male CEOs who ruled the U.S. and European corporate worlds through the beginning of this century—has long been eroding.”

While confidence and decisiveness are still sought-after traits, Hewlett’s latest research has found a shift towards a different style of leadership. Her research, which compared attitudes towards leadership and executive presence between 2012 and 2022, discovered executive presence has taken on a new shape.

“Inclusiveness, in all its manifestations—respecting others, listening to learn, telegraphing authenticity—has shot onto the list of the most-valued components of all three dimensions of EP.”

So, with this shift towards a more inclusive, confident communication style, let’s chat about how we bring this all together so that you can communicate as your authentic self and bring your executive presence to light.

Executive presence: Letting your true self shine

Let’s break it down.  If you want to be a more confident inclusive communicator, you need to start with your why. Purpose and impact go hand-in-hand. So, how can you share your purpose to enhance your executive presence?

Amy Cuddy suggests that presence stems from believing in and revealing your own stories.

Presence isn’t about pretending to be competent; it’s about believing in and revealing the abilities you truly have. It’s about shedding whatever is blocking you from expressing who you are. It’s about tricking yourself into accepting that you are indeed capable,” Cuddy says.

So, let’s ditch the jargon and share your story. Caroline Goyder’s tip on gravitas? Well, it’s not about being all serious; it’s about letting your best self shine through.

As for inclusivity, as Hewlett puts it: “To be inclusive, you must not only hire people with diverse backgrounds and give everyone a fair shot at climbing the ladder. You must also ensure that all your employees feel appreciated and supported. In doing so, you will uncover value for individuals, your team, and your organisation.”

Putting it into practice

Now, down to the nitty-gritty – here are a few practical tips you can use starting today. From tackling public speaking nerves to managing difficult conversations. It’s time to embrace bravery.

  1. If public speaking gives you the heebie-jeebies, Cuddy, Goyder and Hewlett are all in agreement. Embrace your story, adopt expansive postures, and speak your truth. And don’t forget Goyder’s secret weapon – storytelling! It’s like the Jedi mind trick of leadership.
  2. Feeling overwhelmed? Face your challenges. Channel your inner superhero and remember, you’ve got the gravitas.
  3. Embarking on a difficult conversation? Turn your listening ears on and communicate with kindness.

Overcoming the inner critic

We all stumble, but guess what? Faking it ‘til you become it isn’t just a mantra, it’s a great tactic. Don’t be afraid of letting go of old habits. They may have served you well in the past, but it’s time to try something new. As Cuddy says;

All changes… have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”.

Most of all, take each challenge as it comes. Remember, these are just hurdles, not roadblocks. No challenge is insurmountable. It’s about creating a vibe, a culture, and a legacy, walking the balancing act or assertiveness and approachability.

So, let’s wrap this up. Executive presence isn’t a secret society handshake; it’s the language of leaders. So now it’s your turn to unleash the magic of confident communication. Let’s embrace the art of storytelling, the power of authentic presence, and the subtle strength of inclusivity and let’s become better leaders today.