When companies are evaluating candidates as well as developing talent for a role that’s part of the executive leadership team, a critical component to assess is executive presence. This enables leaders to have vision, drive critical initiatives, navigate challenges, generate support and enhance relationships.
While executive presence has many facets, focusing on the following areas is of utmost importance to overall business success.
Leaders who possess a high level of empathy and respect for others demonstrate it through attentive and active listening as well as asking thoughtful questions and intuitively reading verbal and nonverbal cues. This builds trust and authentic relationships and enables better collaboration with the rest of the leadership team.
Setting this tone from the top down is also essential for fostering a healthy company culture and employee engagement. Listening carefully to others’ perspectives, regardless of title or job level, allows leaders to understand complex issues – and potential solutions – more deeply than if they appear distracted, cold and unapproachable. Plus, employees who feel understood, heard and valued – even when management disagrees with them – are more likely to innovate and outperform than those who feel like they have no voice.
Confident and poised leaders can command any room – in-person, hybrid or virtual – and remain calm and collected in difficult situations. Especially during crises or other challenges, the combination of gravitas and can-do attitude helps executives set the right tone, motivate their teams and move things forward.
Employees follow the cues of their leaders. Confidence doesn’t mean purporting to have all the answers when you don’t, but rather having the courage to make difficult decisions and face unpredictable situations. Doing so with honesty, humility and tact earns a vote of confidence from others, including the board, shareholders and the public.
Providing transparency about strengths and deficits (in knowledge, skills etc.) can be seen as a bold move, but transparency in leadership is a must for building trust in teams. Authentic leaders don’t patronize others by sugarcoating or obfuscating bad news; they’re not afraid to speak the truth whether it’s good, bad or ugly.
Being open and objective can inspire teams toward more creative and productive solutions through frank discussion of possibilities, addressing questions and building consensus (while ultimately making necessary decisions). Not only does this solve problems more effectively, teams are more likely to get behind ideas they’ve had a part in building toward.
Looking at functional expertise alone is not enough when hiring or promoting executive leaders. Strong executive presence can be a critical differentiator between the right and wrong person to take the helm. When grooming executives from within, companies should focus on qualities that will help future leaders stand out while also benefiting their teams and the company. Providing executive coaching to hone and strengthen executive presence is one way to accomplish this.
Leadership teams with strong executive presence, individually and collectively, will not only lead a company to more success, but also inspire employees to be engaged, productive and innovative.