Five Behaviors That Signal Executive Presence

Executive presence isn’t just for CEOs — it’s for everyone who wants to command respect, be influential and advance in their careers.  

According to Forbes contributor Gerry Valentine, “executive presence is about your ability to inspire confidence — inspiring confidence in your subordinates that you’re the leader they want to follow, inspiring confidence among peers that you’re capable and reliable and, most importantly, inspiring confidence among senior leaders that you have the potential for great achievements.”

While some people naturally have qualities that lend themselves to creating executive presence, you can develop these qualities in yourself. Practice these five behaviors to improve your executive presence.

 1. Exude confidence

Confidence is "the degree to which you think and ‘feel’ your actions will achieve positive results," says Psychology Today writer Hendrie Weisinger.  Displaying self-confidence shapes the perception others have of you and reinforces their confidence in you. You boost your confidence by knowing yourself, being aware of your strengths and believing in your abilities.

2. Stay calm under stress

When problems arise, teams look to their leaders for assurance that solutions can be found. Your response to an overwhelming situation sets the tone for how others react. Practice your self-control, patience and poise with everyone and at all times.  

3. Have strong communication skills

Hone speaking and listening skills to demonstrate expertise, self-confidence and empathy. Your communication skills determine how influential you are: getting and keeping peoples’ attention is the first step towards achieving your objectives. Also, follow best practices for sending concise emails and responding promptly and, when appropriate, send a hand-written thank-note note to make a strong impression. 

4. Dress the part

Don’t underestimate the power of a collar. Professional clothing informs your attitude and conveys your mindset. Sure, it’s comfortable to wear flip flops and t-shirts to the office on a hot summer day, but don’t. And, if you’re taking a business call at home in sweats or pajamas, the casual clothes you’re wearing can negatively influence your tone of authority.

5. Walk the walk

Posture, facial expressions and other forms of body language communicate a lot about you. How you enter a room, whether you look people in the eye while conversing, if you have a firm hand shake and how genuine the smile on your face appears – all these behaviors signal whether you have executive presence or not.

Can we tell if a smile is genuine? Yes, according to French physician Guillaume Duchenne, who identified two types facial muscles we engage in smiling. In a posed or fake smile, we contract only the muscles around the mouth, sometimes showing our bottom row of teeth. But when we’re genuinely smiling, muscles around our eyes “crinkle,” forming crow’s feet and closing our eyes.

Know that Executive Presence looks different from one person to the another. There is no one size fits all. So, use these five behaviors to help you enhance your own personalized Executive Presence.