Have you noticed certain people in the corporate world seem to have a special aura about them?

This special aura is hard to describe and define. But, frankly, that’s beside the point, because you instantly “know” when you’re in the presence of such a person — regardless of whether you’re sitting next to them in a boardroom, or across the corridor from them in a crowded airport. It’s an unmistakable impression of confidence, poise and self-awareness, and what’s more, it’s infectious. When we’re around such people we also start to feel more confident, poised and self-assured.

This special, rare and essentially indescribable quality goes by a few names, such as “magnetism” or “charisma.” However, in working closely with hundreds of leading corporate professionals across the country and around the world, I think the term Executive Presence defines it best – because it’s about how you think, act, communicate, act and, ultimately, “are present” on the corporate, or not so corporate stage.

Now, you may think that Executive Presence is a trait that you’re either born with…or born without. And while it’s true that some rare people do have an innate talent along these lines, be assured that cultivating an Executive Presence is possible and practical – with practice.

Here are 7 ways to achieve this remarkable goal:

1. Be attractive, but not sexy.

Aim to look attractive — but leave sexy out of the picture. Attractive is an appealing quality that draws people towards you (i.e. they are literally “attracted” to you). Sexy, however, is a feeling and an attitude that others may find aggressive, confusing, or just plain inappropriate. Instead of looking confident, you can come across looking desperate. Save sexy for after work, and keep it out of your business inner circle.

2. Learn the rules of engagement.

Always speak with intention, and from a place of deep, unwavering confidence. Keep your messages brief and to the point, but not so that they’re cryptic or incomplete. And above all else, pay attention in meetings, and never text or check for emails. Even if you’re on the phone and the other party can’t see you, they can definitely “feel” when they don’t have your undivided attention.

3. Develop grace under fire.

The corporate world changes daily – sometimes hourly. Just when one problem is solved, another emerges; sometimes, more than one. Reacting to each new challenge is both exhaustive and, ultimately, futile. You’ll burn out and undermine your professional success and personal health. The key to staying calm and responding – rather than reacting – is to practice being graceful under fire. Honestly analyze how and why your “buttons get pushed,” and start to retrain yourself to respond differently.

4. Learn how to quickly size up a room.

On a personal level, we’re all created equal and deserve the same respect. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone you encounter in your professional life is a potential fit for your network. There are certain people who you want to connect with and meet more than others (and vice versa). Develop the ability to decipher clues and signals that help you spot these people. Plus, doing a little LinkedIn homework can also help you prepare to connect with the right people – especially when you don’t have much time to shake hands (or fist bump as the case may be), exchange names, and start a relationship.

5. Boost your Emotional IQ.

Are you sensitive to what others need? Do you take time to really listen to those you interact with; not just what they say, but how they say it and, often more informatively, what they aren’t saying? A great way to develop emotional IQ is to “listen with your whole body.” That is, while communicating with someone and even after the conversation has finished, let your whole body grasp and then reflect on the experience. Pay careful attention to that little voice inside you, and heed its wisdom. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll discover, and how this helps you earn the trust, loyalty and support of the people in your network. Actually, scratch that — you’ll be amazed!

6. Enhance your vision.

Are you a visionary? It doesn’t matter if you manage a staff of zero or 1000. Leaders simply lead — it’s in their DNA. And they do this by seeing the bigger picture, and having an engaging, yet realistic plan that others want to follow. Enhance your vision by always asking yourself: “How does this action or attitude, however small it may seem at the moment, align with my overall plan?” If it doesn’t fit the way it’s supposed to, then it’s time to tweak the plan, or adjust the action/attitude.

7. Polish your reputation.

Does your reputation help — or hinder — your personal brand? Everything you and others see or hear about you reflects upon your reputation, and tells a story about who you are. Polish your brand by taking control of the narrative. Have a brilliant LinkedIn profile. Create a winning Elevator Speech. Be consistent in your messaging, whether it’s in email, over the phone, or in person. Remember: you’ve only got one brand, so it’s in your best interest to nurture and protect it.

The Bottom Line

And so, after all of your effort and focus, what can you expect by developing your Executive Presence to an elite level? Everything from dramatic career advancement, to building valuable relationships with clients, colleagues and peers. Yet perhaps most rewarding is the feeling you’ll have when you inspire others to achieve and sometimes exceed their potential. Instead of looking for those special people with the magical aura, you’ll BE one!

Interested in other articles about Executive Presence?  Read what experts at Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune have to say.


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