Establishing Executive Presence

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The phrase “executive presence” is not new, but it’s gaining traction. I heard it referenced in seven meetings with executives from seven different companies last week, alone.

What does it mean? It’s a way to describe confidence. Not to be confused with arrogance, demonstrating executive presence means showing that we are comfortable in our own skin, that we can go anywhere, that we can handle anything we’re given, that we can ‘own it,’ and that we can be trusted.

From your posture to the words you use, the way you convey ideas and the way you incite action, there are so many nuances to executive presence. On a high level, we can think about The Four Ps. On a tactical level, we must begin by focusing on one area: Our Eyes.

Recently, someone came into my office with eyes darting all around – left, right, up and down. This person displayed a lack of confidence. And what’s worse, it looked shifty, unsure, and a bit jittery. When I saw this, I translated it into a lack of trust for this individual. I couldn’t help it – nor can you… it’s an instinct, a feeling.

Rather than coming off as capable, this person appeared hesitant, anxious, and apprehensive. This is not someone I wanted to hire. This is not someone with whom I wanted to do business, and it’s certainly not someone I wanted to promote.

Even if this isn’t your downfall, improving your eye communication will increase your executive presence. What does that mean?

Hold your gaze.

When you are looking at someone – around the boardroom table, in a small group, in a large audience – hold your eye contact. The ideal time is 5-7 seconds (more on that, here).

Try This: Practice holding your gaze in a restaurant, at a sporting event, or on the subway. Instead of scanning the room or the crowd, hold your eyes in one spot. Be intentional. Count to six. (Try not to be creepy or glare – remember, the goal is to be more confident and approachable.)

Nobody wants to appear shifty. Whether you use the phrase ‘executive presence’ or confidence, you can elevate your role as a parent, spouse, volunteer, non-profit leader or executive.

Start with your eyes.

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