Fake news … trade war … children in cages … severing ties with our allies … the US president meeting with oppressive dictators … these are challenging times. So you may ask yourself, how does this relate to Executive Presence?
When times are easy, no one really notices how you behave. As long as you don’t rock the boat, things move along smoothly. If you work hard, you are likely to get rewarded or promoted. In communication terms, as long as people understand you when you speak, it’s good enough.
When times are tough, however, what’s required for success changes. It’s no longer enough to be present and do your job. You have to stand out; you have to be clear about what you stand for, and you have to make a difference. In communication terms, you need to speak in a way that inspires confidence and trust. You need to project clarity, wisdom, and depth. And that’s what Executive Presence is all about.
- You can tell people you will help them … or you can communicate with such warmth and concern that your audience “experiences” your support. This is gravitas.
- You can dress up in a suit to show people you are a “leader” … or you can exude confidence with your posture and movement that communicates your leadership ability regardless of what clothing you wear. This is appearance.
- You can talk a good game, monitoring your speed as you speak slowly and deliver your “script” or you can communicate with such clarity, expression, passion, and connection with your audience that everyone knows what you mean without having to think about it. This is communication.
These 3 components make up Executive Presence: gravitas, appearance, and communication. If you embody all three, you are empowered to make a difference.
In troubling times, your ability to adhere to your principles and incorporate your beliefs into your communication style is critical. Components of your speech and movement that you can control and change include:
- Voice quality … how strong is your voice? Does it carry? Can you control the pitch and do you have a good range?
- Clarity … when you speak, do people understand you the first time or do you have to repeat, rephrase, and explain? Does it come naturally with flow or do you have to self-monitor and talk slowly?
- Intention … is your audience on the same page with you from the beginning or do you have to wonder about whether or not they are getting your intent? Do you feel like there are “misunderstandings” after you communicate your message? Or do you have mechanisms built in when you speak to gauge understanding and proactively address any “disconnects” as they occur?
- Phrasing … Do you say things in a way that people follow and relate to and that flows naturally, or do you struggle to find the right words and express yourself and feel that others do a better job than you do?
When it comes to Executive Presence, you either have it, or you don’t. In challenging times, we need more from our leaders. Standing up, being clear, communicating intention and inspiring confidence aren’t optional; these are requirements.
Are you up to the task?