Our habits make us what we are. Regular and frequent action creates neural pathways in the brain, making our behaviours automated as we carry them out without much thought, in other words, our habits.
By developing specific habits, we excel in leadership, be it successfully performing certain tasks,
communicating with impact or forming powerful connections.
What actions then do leaders transform into habits in order to display masterful executive presence?
1. Pride in their appearance
Effective leaders make it a point to look presentable at all times. They have a polished appearance, turn up appropriately and with strong body language.
The habit of a well-maintained and organised wardrobe saves time, a last-minute panicked scramble, where starting your day becomes quick and effortless. Showing up smart, crisp and well-groomed implies effective self-management, dignity and respect towards others.
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2. Show up well-prepared
Leaders who make it a habit to show up against all odds invite trust and reliability. They manage their time efficiently, and show up with courage and enthusiasm. They are present to the task at hand, putting aside other demands for the moment to be dealt with later.
Effective leaders do not show up for the sake of it, but do so well-prepared. It is not an attendance tick mark but an engagement to be involved in, to partake in and contribute to.
3. Speak up
Sharing their views confidently and boldly at every opportunity makes it easier for leaders to speak up even when they know their ideas may be unwelcome. Influential leaders make it a habit to speak with a powerful tone and articulated words.
With practice their messages are conveyed with conviction and in a straightforward manner. They build the courage to voice themselves authentically and transparently.
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4. Listen attentively
As successful leaders confidently speak up, they equally listen with great attention. They make it a habit to listen in order to understand, and not in order to respond. They refrain from interrupting, allowing the other person to finish even when they strongly disagree or have a counterpoint to make. They wait their turn.
Deep listening is an art that comes from practice. Our mind thinks thousands of thoughts as we listen to others speak, so it takes a whole lot of rehearsing to master active listening. In doing so, leaders get a lot more information than they otherwise would, helping them come up with better solutions and smarter decisions.
5. Make tough decisions
Wavering and being undecided, or lacking the grit to make hard decisions costs the leader as well as the organisation. Leaders with executive presence understand the importance of being decisive while taking on ownership and responsibility for those decisions.
Cultivating the habit of making timely calls saves leaders from wasting more time than needed on analysis and contemplation. With practice, decision making becomes more routine, honing the skill of discernment, gathering relevant information and being result-centred.
6. Demonstrate composure
Leadership is to connect, inspire and motivate. People must feel psychologically safe to disagree, suggest, and ask crucial questions. With a leader that flies off the handle and yells, not only do others distance themselves but morale takes a hit. Productivity and motivation drop. Effective
leaders compose themselves to regulate their emotions and are aware of their triggers as they mindfully focus on the current objectives. To be calm and collected is not meekness, but a self-control
that indicates power and strength. Firm words can be voiced in a steady yet firm tone. Often that is
7. Grow connections
Successful leaders thrive on connecting with people. They put in the effort to build on their relationships and meet new people, taking a genuine interest in others. They recognize the value of
associations, collaborations, and partnerships.
Warmth and approachability are key to executive presence, for it is about how one makes people feel, and how one is perceived. To stop and think about others, what they may need or what they may be struggling with is fostering a stronger connection. As this is done consciously, it comes more naturally to ask after others, support their growth, and reach out to new connections.
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8. Speak for impact
Confident leaders speak concisely and succinctly to the desired outcome. They avoid over- explaining which usually confuses, takes away from key issues, and denotes doubt. As someone said, if they had more time, they would have written a shorter letter.
It takes great practice and awareness to speak fewer words that tell a better story. Clarity of the mind, subject knowledge and relevance matter to keeping a message brief and on point, inviting better attention from the audience.
9. Stay curious
As connections build and a leader’s network grows, they understand the value of staying curious. A desire to learn from others urges them to seek new perspectives, engage in discussions for an expanded mindset, and challenge their own ways of thinking. It is moving from the knowing mode to the learning mode for there is a desire to be conscious of more.
This at times involves taking negative feedback constructively. A powerful exercise is to ask yourself to come up with three reasons why the other person’s idea may be good when you don’t think it is. Being an avid reader is a discipline many leaders follow for continuous growth and learning.
The human species thrives on advancement and loses its spirit in stagnation. For refinement and innovation, leaders know where they are now and where they want to go. They build awareness through regular and disciplined self-reflection, which further redefines or reinforces their vision, distinctly then communicated to others.
Vision is what keeps their eye on the ball, always on course with well-defined objectives. Seeking self-improvement is a life-long journey that is built from a leader’s passionate belief in themselves and what more is possible.
11. Deliver results
Results matter. They define the next course of decisions and actions to be taken. Credible leaders are mindful of delivering the desired results, establishing a strong work ethic.
They are conscientious about keeping their word and living up to their promises. Forming habits to take their responsibilities and commitments seriously and then working hard to make sure they accomplish those goals are high priority.
To look at where you want to be and what you desire to become is to take a look at the habits you want to cultivate in order to get there. It is with diligence that leaders perform these actions, keeping the discipline to rehearse them frequently, turning them into habits, habits that master executive presence like a pro.
Live a full life, with confidence, dignity and gratitude