I frequently speak to executives who are disillusioned with their careers having failed to gain a promotion into a more senior leadership position. Let’s talk about sometimes why this might happen. Following a selection process, the successful person has usually competed against other qualified candidates, some of whom were probably just as experienced and smart. Now over my career, I have been in the position of making and supporting the decision about who gets the role on many occasions and let me tell you, it often comes down to who has the most leadership presence or gravitas.

A Google search on executive presence reveals definitions and advice on everything from dressing for success and patterns of speech to more fundamental issues of emotional and social intelligence.

People aren’t born with executive presence or gravitas. They develop the skills over their career with experience, maturity and usually some effort too.

So how do you go about developing Executive Presence?

Here are 12 qualities that contribute to gravitas:

  1. Clarity: You need to be able to communicate ideas, insights, thoughts and feelings with simplicity and clarity. Also more and more important is the ability to tell stories and uses metaphors to create meaning and impact.
  2. Transparency: You need to be open, straightforward, genuine, and comfortable in your own skin. When difficult issues arise you need to be able to seek the truth and provide clarity. Does not attempt to cover up when things go awry.
  3. Passion: It is important to be optimistic in outlook and passionate about the job, profession, industry and life in general.
  4. Intelligence: You need to be able to demonstrate both IQ and EQ. You need to be able to process, retain and apply information and to be able to make good decisions based on the information from both types of intelligence.
  5. Data Analysis: Being able to assimilate complex dynamics and stacks of data to reach insightful conclusions is beneficial.
  6. Results-Oriented: A key factor is to be driven to succeed with the ability to work with uncertainties. The environment is constantly changing and so you will also need to demonstrate flexibility and the willingness to adjust goals.
  7. Give back: An attitude of giving, rather than getting. Works in the service of common goals for the organisation’s and society’s higher values.
  8. Confidence: Has sufficient confidence to perform the duties and lead the people. Not overconfident. In order to perform, a leader will ask questions and listens. It is also important not to try to please everyone.
  9. Humility: A willingness to be vulnerable and admit mistakes, errors, fears and uncertainties in ways that are authentic. Doesn’t think that they have all the answers and seeks answers and listen to others with different viewpoints and seeks advice.
  10. Courage: Willing to take risks and positions against considerable odds. May be seen as a maverick. Able to perceive possibilities and innovations.
  11. Humour: Never harsh or sarcastic but uses humour to relax and disarm others and dissolve tension.
  12. Social: Genuinely cares about others; sees both strengths and weaknesses in people. Allows people to learn from mistakes. Promotes healthy self-esteem and respects others.

It is a formidable list. Isn’t it?

How do you stack up?

What items do you need to work on?

Please do bear in mind that no one person possesses all of these qualities in abundance.

If you need to develop your executive presence or have had feedback that you need more gravitas then get in contact via email and let discuss how I can support you.



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