Hone Your Skills

Executive Presence: Why It Matters for Team Culture

March 31, 2022
5 Min Read

Did you know that executive presence is the most critical skill of being an effective leader? This soft skill plays an essential role in impacting team culture across an organization. A survey conducted by The Center for Talent Innovation found that a person’s “executive presence” counts for 26% of the skills needed for promotion.

Executive presence is considered an elusive art of influential leadership. Developing and refining an executive presence takes time and commitment, yet it is a worthy investment that profoundly affects the success of a company and team culture.

Let’s explore what it is, why it matters, and how you can strengthen your executive presence.

What Is Executive Presence?

Everyone knows the type of leader that lights up a room. Their energy is infectious, and they delight their peers with their enthusiasm and positive attitude. They are self-aware, communicate well, and connect with everyone around them.

In addition, they employ active listening, empathy, have high integrity, humility, and a quiet confidence about themselves, leaving behind a memorable impression.

Your executive presence is how you present yourself to the world — in the boardroom or online. It is primarily shaped by your emotional intelligence and combines your character, attitude, image, gravitas, impressions, and interactions with others. Emotional intelligence or “EQ” is the awareness of your feelings and actions and a willingness to understand how they affect those around you.

A sign of high emotional intelligence is having strong communication and social skills, sound decision making, adaptation to change, conflict mitigation, stress tolerance, and time management, to name a few. Some may call these “soft skills,” but growing research shows that they are just as important, if not more so than technical skills, especially when it comes to leadership.

Simply put, a solid executive presence makes you a leader others will want to follow. In addition, it sets the tone for the development of your personal brand.

Over time people will form a perception of you by how you continually present yourself. A successful personal brand is how others perceive you. You want to appear as someone committed to your beliefs, values, the organization, and the development of those you lead. 

Great leaders shape and mold their presence by consistently taking action on their words to set  examples of integrity and build trust among their teams. This is ultimately what encompasses strong executive presence skills and will differentiate those who rise into the C-suite.

Your Confidence as a Leader

Executive presence is about clearly communicating who you are with a sense of purpose, conviction, and confidence in the way you connect with others. Typically, someone who is assertive, speaks up with an authoritative tone, makes eye contact, and uses clear language is seen as a confident leader.

Confidence is considered the driving force behind leadership. However, we all know it is impossible for leaders to feel confident 100% of the time. Leaders who feel self-doubt are still seen as good decision-makers and risk-takers in the minds of their peers and teams. Since executive presence is about perception, it’s critical to push past imposter syndrome and act the act. 

Your Ability To Communicate

Have you ever heard the term “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”?

Your tone of voice, inflection, emotion, body language, intentional pausing, eye contact, word choice, and delivery play a role in effective verbal communication. Whether you’re presenting to your team, socializing at a company party, or chatting with your boss on Zoom, you’re constantly communicating who you are and making an impression on others.

How you communicate, also known as your communication style, will affect all of your relationships — from your superiors, colleagues, and clients to your loved ones, including family and friends.

Beyond words, you’ll want to take note of your non-verbal behaviors. For instance, how you project your voice, erect your posture, and exude your attitude all play into your executive presence.

It has become especially critical due to the mass transition from in-person to online communication, such as virtual meetings on Zoom or Google Meet. We no longer have the personal element of face-to-face contact, so it takes more intentionality to shape your executive presence.

Staying Composed in Tricky Situations 

Staying composed in situations where emotions might be running high is another critical skill concerning emotional intelligence. An effective leader with high emotional intelligence can create a calmer environment and emotionally reason with teams in stressful or difficult situations. A leader with a calm and confident demeanor can diffuse conflict or tension between team members.

Listening to Your Team

Another essential component of effective communication is actively listening to your team. A team that feels heard and understood will trust and respect those who lead them, creating a solid team culture. 

Why Executive Presence Matters

Executive presence is the missing link between how a leader thinks they are leading and the impression of how they lead from their team. Focusing on the perception of those around you can give you direct feedback on how to improve your presence and your relationships.

As previously mentioned, because you are human, you might not always feel confident. Still, incrementally, you can create lasting positive impressions on your team so that your presence becomes known for who you intrinsically are. 

Executive Presence Boosts Team Morale

A cohesive team builds on the foundation of trust. When a person’s presence is consistent, teams and colleagues know what to expect and feel safe being who they are. Additionally, employees are then naturally optimistic about their goals and working together.

Lastly, individuals with high emotional intelligence ensure that their team is appreciated and acknowledged for their hard work, thus boosting team morale.

Executive Presence Means More Self-Awareness as a Leader

Having a sense of self-awareness is one of the most underrated skills an influential person can have. Understanding how your words and actions impact others will only help you grow further faster.

Reflecting on mistakes or communication conflicts from a space of being human means you can look at it as a learning experience instead of shame or guilt and improve your leadership skills for the future. Accepting and applying constructive feedback and criticism with grace exemplifies maturity.

Strong Executive Presence Creates a Unified Team Culture

Unified team culture is unstoppable. The best way to unify your team is to lead by example. A team is only as good as its leader, so relying on your executive presence is imperative.

Being available to your team and offering assistance when needed will show you as someone who prioritizes the group over the self. 

How To Strengthen Your Executive Presence

Communication Training 

Everyone has areas of weakness. Starting with a humble mindset that there are areas for improvement is the first step.

For example, some of us are not great at public speaking. We might mumble, and some of us might fidget when we are nervous. We might easily get flustered or sidetracked when we are unsure of what we intend to communicate. 

Employing self-awareness and using a tool such as Poised will help you advance when it comes to improving your communication skills and, ultimately, your executive presence. By alerting you to your speaking pace, use of hedging words, and clarity, Poised can be the discrete coach you need to always bring your A-game. 

Getting Feedback From Your Team

Feedback is crucial to advancing in the workplace. Understanding how you impact your team and those around you is critical information necessary to build a strong executive presence. 

Proactively seeking out feedback will help you fast-track your leadership development, show your team that you value their opinions, and strengthen your executive presence. Managers and higher-ups will notice your desire to improve yourself at every opportunity you have. 

Learning From Experience

You learn by taking action and putting yourself in situations that may challenge you. Seeking out opportunities for a wide variety of experiences, whether in a professional or personal setting or being exposed to other types of leadership, can only bring you new insights to sharpen and refine your abilities.

Get a Mentor

Finding a mentor who has walked your path and has been where you are is invaluable. Getting a mentor may not be the easiest thing to do.

However, keeping your eyes peeled for leaders in your field that you look up to, or perhaps an executive at your company and begin to build a relationship with them, could eventually blossom into a fruitful mentorship opportunity in the future.

Why Presence and Poise Matters

The verdict is clear; developing your executive presence is one of the most significant aspects of becoming a successful, influential leader. The impacts of a strong presence will have ripple effects across an organization. It will build your character personally and professionally and be an essential factor in creating a thriving team culture.

Whether it’s improving a keynote speech, having more productive meetings with your team, or becoming more confident in your leadership capabilities, Poised will help you communicate your best self.

Learn how Poised can help you and your team communicate better today.


Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills: What Employers are Seeking | University of MN

Do You Have Executive Presence? | Forbes

12 Ways to Have More Confident Body Language | Verywell mind

C-Suite Definition | Investopedia

Say it like you mean it.

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