Executive presence, the “it” factor that sets leaders apart, requires expert interpersonal skills. Leading with authenticity, empathy and gravitas can be challenging in any setting but especially when working remotely. Leaders should be attuned to the nuances of virtual communications to strengthen executive presence and convey it effectively.
Consider new ways to:
- Build rapport and trust, communicate objectives and solve problems effectively
- Increase visibility and leverage it to inspire others and influence outcomes
- Make strategic decisions and manage crises while maintaining the confidence of key stakeholders
Excellent interpersonal and virtual communications skills are the foundation of executive presence when working remotely. Here’s how to strengthen them.
1. Practice empathy.
Effective leaders actively listen to seek understanding. Even within a shared challenge, people face unique trials and experience them differently. Appreciate where others are coming from and avoid presuming to know their perspective or what they’re going through. Listen with interest to learn how to support them and respond with action when appropriate. (See more on how to listen actively during video meetings here.)
2. Keep calm and lead on.
High pressure situations often test the limits of our abilities and reveal true colors. When others look to you for cues, do you instill confidence or confusion? Maintain trust with clear, open dialogue even when situations are fluid. Whenever possible, provide transparency about challenges and proposed solutions. Sharing information can alleviate anxieties over uncertainty and help your team feel more involved and drive engagement. Self-assured, honest leadership is more valuable than providing a quick response that lacks in substance.
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3. Optimize impressions.
Others take notice when a leader with strong executive presence enters a room. The same holds true when entering a virtual room. In addition to lighting and background, considerations like body language, eye contact, inflection and personal style all impact how others perceive your credibility and authority. Avoid sending the wrong message on video. Leaders are most effective when people believe in them and buy into what they’re saying. Presentation goes a long way in achieving this.
4. Think outside the box.
New challenges call for novel solutions as many businesses continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Agility and adaptability are key to thriving under these circumstances. Use executive presence to drive the message that what has successfully worked in the past may not be the best option now. Encourage exploration and cross-functional dialogue to promote innovation.
5. Respond and follow through.
When teams are distributed across home and corporate offices, they rely more on email and collaborative platforms. It’s critical for leaders to set an example with responsiveness and reliability so others model their behavior. Those with strong executive presence don’t fall short on timely follow through or follow up. Prompt communication also reflects positively on character and very importantly keeps information exchange, strategic decisions and progress in motion.
6. Determine competency gaps.
The best leaders continuously improve and adapt skills to changing circumstances. As the pandemic led to sudden virtual executive team and board meetings, leaders needed to adapt quickly. Many struggled to lead Zoom meetings as effectively as they did in person. Those with executive presence were self-aware and obtained feedback from trusted advisors about how to improve or got immediate help from experts. Part of executive presence means knowing when to obtain help to improve beneficial skills.
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Does it really make a difference if I strengthen executive presence?
Leaders who build strong executive presence are well positioned to advance their careers because the combination of character qualities and interpersonal behaviors helps them stand out, establish trust and develop better relationships. They can leverage executive presence to build consensus around strategic decisions, achieve desired outcomes and mentor progressing leaders. More opportunities arise when people have faith in your abilities and respect your character.
These positive impressions and opportunities benefit companies too. The leader who captivates attention and inspires confidence will attract and retain more business and talent. Those who adapt and sharpen their executive presence – not just for conference rooms and offices, but also for virtual situations – will stay relevant and influential with a competitive edge to drive continued success.