With more and more leaders in corporate India and Asia becoming aware of the term ‘executive presence’, the need for all high potential talent to develop or acquire it is becoming the need of the hour. I was chatting with few talent heads of Investment Banks in Mumbai last week and they all strongly believed that to be an effective leader today, you need executive presence and this means you should be able to connect well with management, seniors, and your team and to show them that you are something of value. Whether it is to one team member or to the entire team, you should be able to demonstrate that you matter in every which way. What your opinions are, how you handle situations, and how people respond to you matter. You should be commanding yet comfortable, you should be a leader yet a team player; you should have that unmistakable, magical aura and yet be authentic and approachable.
Am sure you are aware that when it comes to projecting professional magnetism, there are three specific behaviors you need to seek to exude executive presence- Behaviors of Focus, behaviors of Power, and behaviors of Warmth. You need to look at what leadership behavior you bring to every situation. The leadership style that you portray with your communication skills will help you influence, persuade, and inspire and give you the ultimate corporate success!
First, let’s look at a few myths that abound in today’s leadership in India. Many still believe that ‘what you see is what you get’. Unfortunately, in today’s world, that gets you nowhere or even if it did, you stand the risk of being phased out soon. Today, you need that leadership gravitas and you need to be seen as someone who can adapt someone who can take on any challenge and someone who is vulnerable! Yes, team members tend to look up at their bosses and connect with leaders who are focused, powerful yet warm. As a leader you need to adopt the right behavior of focus, power, and warmth to project the right executive presence. For this you need to see a situation clearly and decide what appropriate behavior to adapt. You can do that only if you have mastered the science of executive presence that helps you formulate strategies and get your team to be led by you. Of course, just having the aura of executive presence is just not enough – you need to use that to get things done. Having it makes you feel in total control and this means you can adapt, change course or put into place strategies that work for that particular situation, not use cookie-cutter formulas that might not work in every case. Executive presence makes you adaptable and makes you feel in control, acknowledging that what works in one instance need not necessarily work in another.
To develop leadership skills, you need an objective assessment of yourself. You could try and do it yourself, or more wisely could get a professional assessment by an executive coach who specializes in the area of executive presence. Once you do that, you need to see what areas you need to strengthen and what areas you need to change. For example, if you are authoritative, you need to learn the skills of warmth. If you are too soft, you need to learn the skills of power in business meetings and presentations. If you are too focused, you need to learn the art of power to influence people and be able to sift out the important and the useful from the chaff. You also need to be able to self-regulate your emotions and your expressions. In fact, your non-verbal signs are more important than what you say. You need to regulate your facial expressions and your body language needs to be open, accepting and yet, commanding.
Being mindful is the key to help you step into the world where you can develop or acquire the skills that add up to executive presence. Once you recognize your strengths and weaknesses and become aware of what you need to change, it is easier to get to where you want to be. Now this, in no way changes who you essentially are. All it does is tweak you a bit so you are more balanced – enhancing your positives, toning down your negatives and acquiring new skills which will help you project a commanding presence. Of course, while you are developing this critical leadership skill of executive presence, you are not transforming your core personality. You are just embracing strings of 3 specific practices (Focus, Power, and Warmth) to be a more charismatic leader. The end game of developing executive presence is to help you become more successful- so that when you walk in the room people notice, when you speak people listen, when you lead people follow!
Coach Vikram Kalloo