7 Key Elements of Executive Presence for Leaders What Sets You Apart

key elements of executive presence for leaders

What is leadership?

What does it mean to be a leader?

It is essentially the ability to lead a group of people successfully, measured by how willing they are to follow you.

If the effectiveness of leadership is in the hands of the followers, what then creates followership?

It is the standard of your executive presence as a leader.

Now executive presence may not be easily defined because of its intangible qualities, yet we know it when we see it.

To develop it, however, behavioral traits, ways of thinking, and how you show up defines how your leadership presence is perceived and experienced.

Here are 7 key traits of executive presence that will characterize and distinguish you as a leader:


People are more likely to follow you when you stand for something and you are clear on it. Having someone to lead with firm principles promotes a feeling of safety. There is no room for wishy-washiness or unsteadiness for leadership is not for the faint-hearted or the timid.

A set of beliefs and the honouring of values that reflect both your own and those of the organization allows for stability. Stability invites followership.

Clarity invites the confidence with which you live and communicate your principles in your leadership role.

List your values. Then list how you are demonstrating those values through the actions you take and the decisions you make.

A must-read: The Cave Rescue


How approachable are you? The ability to make a connection comes from being present, being curious, and listening keenly, with the intent to further support your people. It is to truly and genuinely be interested in each person’s well-being, encouraging their growth and development.

When you make your people first, your people make your work first. Look to create a rapport with each and every team member, showing them, they matter and that you care. This has a ripple effect on the morale of the organization.

Show a humane side of yourself and share a bit about who you are. Others will be comfortable to approach you and share with you in return. It is only when you open those doors that you are in the know of what is happening around you. Keeping yourself isolated only distances you from important information you may need for constructive timely action.

How often are you connecting with your people? How meaningful and inspiring are those conversations?

High Impact Communication

What you say, how you say it, when you say it, why you say it, to who you say it, and what you want to achieve in that communication must be clear and well-prepared.

Vocal elements play a big role, putting the listener either at ease or on the defensive, and if they are on the defensive nothing you say may be effective. A warm yet assertive tone, power in your voice through belly breathing, a natural lower pitch conveying calm, and a steady pace adds the desired meaning to the words you say.

Watch for fillers as they convey hesitancy, and lack of confidence and confuse the listener. Match the person’s linguistic style, pace, and volume, being sensitive to their environment and culture to put the listener at ease. Articulate your points with inflection and conciseness, to avoid the listener getting lost in boredom and long-windedness

Body language speaks volumes. Lean in to signal an interest to connect, listen, and convey. Keep natural eye contact, listen attentively and with focus, keeping all distractions away.

The tone of a conversation is set in the first 3 seconds, establishing the vibe and energy it gives out. Go in with the right intent, and start with a warm natural smile.

To influence is to first inspire. How are you winning and inspiring your teams through your communication?

Recommended Read: From Social Timidity to Confident Expression


You show up with a high presence and all is good. Until there is a high-pressured situation, a crisis, or a major problem. How that situation is handled either dilutes or further establishes your executive leadership presence.

A leader in the midst of intense pressure needs to self-regulate and manage their emotions and actions. It is the tenacity to hold on, to stop, to pause, to take a moment of deep breath. It is only when the anxiety has reduced and the mind has calmed that one can think clearly with a level-head.

This calm allows you to acknowledge the situation, see it for what it is and move into action. It is going from a personal-centred frazzled state to a professional solution-driven results-oriented direction.

The self-control builds resilience, moving the control from the inner self to the other behaviour. You take charge. You are in control.

Build poise by putting certain tools or techniques in place that may work best for you when these situations arise. This could be a pause, a moment of deep breathing, a sip of water, a quick break, or simply sitting upright with a powerful posture.


The ability to make good decisions is based not necessarily on how quickly they are made, but whether they are decisions that deliver the desired results. However, there are times when swift action is needed to make a timely decision and these are backed by traits of clarity, composure, and courage.

Being able to think on one’s feet, be clear on goals and objectives, gain a full understanding of the situation, and then take the necessary steps earn you credibility. It is about being well-prepared, on top of the game, and in the know. Much energy is wasted in catching up, and diluting timely and necessary action.

The decisiveness gives people direction and confidence, seeing that you have a grip on the situation. This in turn gains their trust.

Make those hard decisions when they are for the good of the organization and the well-being of its people.


Appearance is not only about what you wear, but how you carry yourself, how you show up, and conduct yourself with professional etiquette. Being appropriately dressed, and looking sharp and well-groomed expresses self-respect, while it gives respect to others. It indicates the ability to manage oneself. Turning up scruffy and disheveled communicates fluster and carelessness.

Showing up presentable has an impact on us emotionally and mentally, making us feel confident and good about ourselves, and this usually motivates us to give our best. A self-assured stance and standing tall with shoulders back conveys authority and empowers our own state of mind.

Take the time to manage your wardrobe with smart work essentials, while you add a dose of self-care. Be aware of posture, facial expressions and gestures for the executive presence look.

You may like this: 7 Loud Signs that a Leader is Faking Confidence


We can’t become who we want to be, or get to where we want to go if we don’t know where we are now. Growth, advancement and development happens through an awareness of who we are now, of how it is serving us and others. From here we are able to create a road map towards what we want to achieve.

How you are being perceived requires regular self-reflection, and inner and other awareness, where your internal and external observance is raised. The contemplation defines your narrative, giving you your individuality, re-confirming your vision for yourself and the organization.

Course correction can only happen when you evaluate and assess how you are doing. Self-reflection is incomplete without taking feedback. To assess how you are performing, be sensitive to how you are being received.

As you develop a ritual or of inner awareness, grow your outer awareness, you expand your emotional intelligence, able to connect better not just with others, but with your own self

Cultivating the skills belonging to these traits of executive presence requires awareness, identification, and practice. Start implementing these behaviors into your real-life situations, and if it helps, keep a log book or journal of how you think you did, and what more you may need to do, to develop an executive presence that sets you apart.

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