Executive Presence. Do you have it? Do you need it? How do you get it?
I am digging into what executive presence is and my method for developing it and sustaining it as you grow your career.
What You’ll Learn
4 Questions that will reveal your leadership positioning
The method to develop your executive presence
How to be confident and effective in any room and at any table
Featured in This Episode
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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy.
At work and live the life you want.
If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of Navigating Your Career. Today we are going to talk about a hot topic executive presence. I get this question pretty regularly with clients, with people I meet, and just through private messages. How can you get more executive presence? Is this something that is really holding you back in your career? I recently led a career development session with MacroGenics, a local biotech company in Maryland. And after my presentation, when I was having lunch with some of the employees, this topic came up. Someone shared that they think what they need to develop is executive presence in order to get to the next level. Now, executive presence means a lot of things to different people. The definition can vary from person to person and company to company. I shared my perspective in philosophy and executive presence during this lunch at a very high level, and I wanted to dig deeper into it today. So I talked about finding and embracing your uniqueness, but adjusting your contribution and behavior based on your audience. And today I’m going to share a method that you can use that will work in any company and any audience to exude executive presence, but without becoming a robot or conforming to the way that you see other people.
Typically men in leadership positions in the industry act. So let’s dive right in. The first step is to consider your unique voice and positioning. The goal with executive presence isn’t that you have a group of leaders with herd mentality all acting the same. It’s demonstrating your value proposition, your position, and using your strength and voice to influence others and demonstrate your leadership. You want to still feel like you when you are authentic, whether it’s bubbly or serious, flexible or firm, data driven. Big picture. You want to keep your personality and who you really are, but you want to focus your communication and positioning in a strategic way. So to uncover your unique voice and positioning, consider the following four questions. Number one, what are your strengths? What are those things that you’re really good at, maybe better than other people? What do people go to you for? Because you contribute this with quality and dependability. Number two, what are your values? What are those things that are really important to you as a person and for the work that you do? Your values are what make your work worth doing and represent who you are.
Number three, what is your scope? What is your area of responsibility and influence? If you are in a team meeting with ten people, why are you there? What is your hat that you’re wearing? Number four. What type of leader do you want to be when people interact with you? What feeling do you want them to have? What do you want to be known for? And I want you to consider that you are a leader regardless of what level you’re at, regardless of what title or pay grade you have. These four questions will help you identify your voice and positioning that is authentic to you and also focuses you strategically on what your purpose is in your work. Now, I like to think about executive presence as situational presence executives. Sounds stiff, right? And almost unattainable. Something that you’re born with or not, or that men have or something that you only attain at certain levels. Instead, think of it as a way of demonstrating your unique value and positioning in a way that is effective to your audience that is so much more doable. Right? Because anyone can have executive presence. Like, it’s elusive. It’s really just when you boil it down, self awareness and communication skills with a little sprinkle of confidence.
And if you know your value and your positioning and how to effectively communicate, you will have that executive presence. Because again, you don’t want to be like what you might see now in your leadership team if that doesn’t represent where we’re going, and it doesn’t represent people like you. Leaders that are there now are sometimes based on systemic issues with inequalities boys clubs and don’t necessarily represent the future of leadership and what we actually need. It does not mean, just to be clear, that the leaders that you have are not great people, that they are not highly talented, or that they don’t deserve the roles that they’re in. But you never want to try to be like someone else to get ahead because you’re not ultimately going to be happy in the long run. We need you and your unique voice and the value that you contribute. The goal of this episode is to help you be more effective so you can get where you want to be in your career into that leadership or executive table, if that is something you desire. Okay? So you know what you bring to the table your value and strengths as well as the hat that you wear and the scope of influence you have, right?
Let’s assume that you pause, you went through those four questions, or you’re going to do it later. So you went through step one. Now, step two is to apply situational presence by using your presence style. I want you to consider that again, making that switch from executive presence to situational presence, because that is going to feel a lot more doable and attainable. Generally as a leadership competence, it is effective to have situational leadership, which means that you manage people based on their unique skills and qualities and based on the project or criticality of the work. You wouldn’t want to lead every single person the exact same way, because people need different things, right? They’re motivated in different ways. They have different levels of experience, different personality traits. Someone who has been at the company for 20 years and someone that has been there one year are going to have different needs, right? You can’t give them all the same work and treat them all the same way. They may not really be effective that way. So you have your values as a leader, just like you will define your values and strengths through the questions I provided earlier in this episode.
And that applies to everything. But you adjust your approach for the unique individual that is essentially situational leadership. Now, with situational presence, which is something that I have created, it’s just a different take on executive presence, and it’s just adjusting your presence based on the situation, based on who is in the room. This is how you become effective with peers, with leaders, with everyone across, up and down the organization. Let’s talk about an example. So for me, I’m naturally a pretty silly and bubbly person. I also have high standards for myself, and I value fun inclusion, making a difference in resilience and high quality. I am an excellent coach, and I work with women of varying levels all across pharma and biotech to discover their next best role, to get to the next level, to make more money and stand out as a leader. Any or all of those things. That is my scope, my contribution, my zone of genius, my values, how I demonstrate my leadership and presence may vary, though, based on the situation that I’m in. So consider that you have a dial. And that dial is something like you turn like volume on a stereo.
That is probably a very old reference. I just realized, realizing that my own children don’t. You really use dials, but hopefully you know what I’m referring to with a dial that you would use to adjust sound or temperature, maybe. And that dial is going to represent your entire personality, everything about you. So if I’m talking to vice presidents about what I offer and how I can help their employees, I’m still using my values and my unique positioning. I’m still operating in my scope. I’m wearing my CEO hat, but I’m going to scan my audience for how they respond, how I can connect with them, and what level to adjust my dial to. So you may assume that VPs are all stuffy or serious, and that’s just not true. I have connected and laughed and been silly even in first meetings because vice presidents are also just people. But I’m going to go in with my business hat on, especially in that situation. I’m going to have my CEO hat on, not even necessarily my coach hat. And based on the objective of the interaction and who it is with, I’m going to adjust my presence using that dial.
So I’m going to make some parts of my personality stronger and some more dim based on who I’m talking to and what the objective is of that time that we have together. When one of my clients meets their goals or has a big win in that situation, I’m the hired coach, still the professional, still the leader. But I’m going to have my coach hat on and I’m going to celebrate the crap out of my client and I’m going to clap and I’m going to be more silly and maybe I’m going to play a song, right? It’s going to be a little bit of a different vibe. So I’ve led trainings where I even play Beyonce before I start the training session, okay? And that is just based on the audience and how much I’m turning the dial up on that part of my personality. In all of these situations, I have leadership presence. It doesn’t take away from my positioning or value to adjust the dial. It’s just that is how you are effective in different environments, right? It’s like the situation of leadership, not everyone in every environment is going to be the same.
The point is to be you, but to have selfawareness and to adjust your approach based on your audience. Now, when I was talking to someone recently, they said that when they see leaders at certain levels, they don’t see themselves, that they are not serious enough. And again, the answer isn’t to change who you are, to be more serious, to wear more business suits, to avoid laughing or talking to certain people, because that is ultimately not going to get you what you want. You can do all of the right things and that’s not what’s going to make you stand out as a leader and that’s not what’s going to give you that presence. You want to be clear on who you are first and answer the questions that I shared in this episode to get clear on your positioning, your value, your scope of influence. Then you want to adjust your approach using that dial based on your audience. Now, some examples of how your approach would be adjusted would be knowing how much information to share with different audiences. So if you’re a leader, you wouldn’t share the same information with everyone at every level.
You’re a role model and representing your company. So you would talk one way with your peers than you would with your direct reports. When you’re selling yourself, asking for something, whether it be an idea to be used, an idea to be used, or you want more money, or you want to share your ideas and perspective, or you want your ask to be received in a way that your audience is receptive. If your bosses or leadership, like slides and data, for example, you want to give them that. If they aren’t a fan of slides and they want to use Flip charts, or they like to just have a conversation and talk, it out then that is the approach that you would use. If they aren’t a fan of dance parties. You want to turn that dial down a bit if that is something you’re into. Like me, I actually was deemed the dancing queen at one of my jobs in industry. So I wouldn’t go in playing Beyonce before my presentation. And I’d have the data in a preread to make sure they have what they need. And I can demonstrate what I can deliver if that is what my audience needed from me.
At the end of the day, yes. Let’s just acknowledge that there will be leaders who want you to be the way they are used to seeing leaders. Or maybe they are so glorifying the 1950s, maybe they want you to be more like a man 100%. That is real life. That happens still. But what we need is different than what we have. And what we need is more diversity in leadership. We need you and your voice and your solutions. You just need to get clear on what those are, what you bring, and be able to influence others to make it happen. And that comes from effective communication, which I’m going to dig into in a few minutes. So if the expectation is you become more manly or stop smiling so much or stay in your place, then do you really want to sit at that table? You likely won’t be happy long term when you have to work in that environment where that type of behavior is tolerated and rewarded. There is a place for you at the leadership table. You don’t have to become someone else to get there. If it is the right table for you, you can use this strategy to get there.
You just have to get clear on the value you bring, your values, your position, and then work on your influencing skills, your relationships and connections and your communication skills. This is situational presence. It is being a leader. It is the executive presence that is so mysterious and so many women think that they need and lack in don’t sacrifice. You just adjust your dial for the situation and if you get feedback that says you need more executive presence or you need to work on it, then ask for specific feedback on what that looks like. How is it defined, what is the universal expectation? And is everyone in a leadership role modeling it? Because it can unfortunately be used generically as a way to hold women to a different standard and hold them back thinking they are less than or lacking. So get specific. What is the standard? What is the behavior? Then you can decide if that aligns with your values because well, you’ve done that work if you follow through on the homework from this episode. Now step number three is to communicate effectively. I touched on this in the last step with knowing your audience.
But I call it out separately because it’s one thing to know them and to have great relationships with people to know what you bring and your scope. But you have to deliver your message in a way that demonstrates your expertise. Advocates for yourself and for your team. Shows you are a team player and is clear on what you want and why to communicate effectively and in a way that demonstrates your leadership skills. Use the information from the four questions earlier in this episode and then follow my framework for getting your expertise used. So these are the five steps in my framework. One, have an outcome that you want to achieve. Two, read the room, adjust your dial, and communicate in a way that your audience will receive the information best. Three, consider the context and include relevant information. Four, collaborate and be a team player in. Five, listen. I have another podcast episode where I share these five steps in detail, so I’m not going to get into all of the detail today. It is called get your voice heard at work. It’s episode 76. You can go back and listen to that one. You can even download the framework.
I’ll put the link in the show notes. You will also benefit from the episode Master Difficult Conversations, and that episode I share with you how to be effective with stakeholders and leaders who you don’t agree with or are difficult to connect with, or maybe you don’t even like. So there is a worksheet you can download that walks you through my Difficult Conversations framework as well. I’ll drop these links and if you are looking for more ways to be effective, scan the other episodes. As I have talked about this topic quite a bit, and different strategies for communicating effectively at different levels and in different scenarios. It’s really the foundation of the work that I do with all of my clients. So let’s recap. Number one is identify your unique value and positioning by answering the four questions provided in this episode. Number two, apply situational presence and adjust your presence style. And three, communicate effectively and adjust your approach based on your audience. And it is worth noting that you can master these steps. This method that I shared with you today. And you may still have to tweak it down the road. Because as you get more leadership exposure.
As you’re on new leadership teams. As you meet new people. Work with new companies. You’re going to have different people that are going to operate differently. Have different communication preferences. Have different standards for work. And so you’ll always be in this place where you’re scanning your audience and adjusting your dial to be effective in the room that you’re in. So don’t make that a bad thing, that this is something to continually learn and adjust. But once you master the foundation of these steps, it’s going to be so much easier. And you’ll feel confident being in any room, and you’ll feel confident knowing that you have the presence you need to be at the level that you want to. Finally, don’t sacrifice your values and who you really are to fit a corporate mold or outdated rather idea of leadership you can be. You bring your unique voice and value and learn the skill of executive presence no matter where you are and what level you’re at. Alright, that’s all for this week’s episode. I’d love to hear how you apply what you learned this week. So share this episode on LinkedIn with your takeaways or send me a direct message on LinkedIn.
I would love to hear what you tried from this episode and how it works for you. And have an amazing week.
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