You know you need to focus on it, but where to start? What IS it? What should you do next? These are the questions we hear from clients grappling with executive presence and developing their brand at work.
We recently hosted a free call on Executive Presence: 3 practical steps to accelerate your brand. Listen to it HERE.
At the end of the call several excellent and intelligent questions were posed. Here’s one.
Q: How can I, a petite African American female, establish executive presence in a culture and company in which I am surrounded by 6 feet tall white males?
Great question. Worthy of more than a short blog, but we’ll share a few thoughts. According to 2004 research by Timothy Judge & Daniel Cable (discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink, and by Howard Ross in Reinventing Diversity) there is a measurable bias in American industry and culture for the tall, male leader. 60% of CEO’s at the time of the study were more than six feet tall, but only 15% of American males are over six feet.
So, given these cultural phenomena, how would one build a brand that is noteworthy, an executive presence that is powerful?
In our work with established and emerging leaders, creating a positive impression can be as tactical as:
- Dressing one step above everyone else—establishing a consistent level of professional appearance.
- Practicing the skills required to be poised under fire—this is one of The Most Noteworthy characteristics of executive presence, primarily because most of us fall apart when the situation gets dicey, especially in public. Take a breath (and count a beat) before responding to an attack or in a conflict situation. When the 5 foot tall female is unflappable, that is noteworthy to her 6 feet plus counterparts.
- Being approachable—saying “yes” to tough assignments, open to new ideas, receptive to others’ input and incorporating that into your presentations and content garners respect and encouragement.
The longer term initiatives revolve around enrolling and engaging others in the development of your brand:
- Establish and share a clear vision of who you are, what you have to offer, where you want to go with your professional career; and find allies to help you establish that reputation and open doors to help you stretch are all key components.
- Understand your audience—who you are presenting to and meeting with, how best to approach them, preparing in advance and practicing delivery; and relating to what they value so that they are more receptive to what you are asking. It’s a sign of respect for them and shows how smart and committed you are to shared success.
And finally, get serious about being believable—believe in yourself!
- The impression of confidence is best fed by Actual Confidence…not acting a part, but believing in oneself. Knowing that you have the facts, information, background you need to defend a point or stake a claim. Do whatever it takes to create a belief in yourself, your skills, your value, your contribution.
- Manage your emotions—avoid the tendency to confront arrogance with arrogance. Well-crafted statements of accomplishment speak volumes by sounding more born of humility than hubris.
We are passionate about the topic of presence. It is a recurrent theme in working with leaders at a variety of levels across organizations and industries and a key to successful leadership. We very much appreciate the callers who joined us on Tuesday, and the brave souls who asked questions and wrote us later with their commitments.
Join us in an upcoming Leadership Development Forum designed specifically for intentional and focused work on your goals, including developing executive presence.