The Power & Role of Emotional Intelligence in Developing Executive Presence

You are one amongst twenty other highly intelligent people in the room. What is going to set you apart?

Emotional acumen, when paired with intelligence, is the new smart. The ability to handle yourself, manage relationships and navigate difficult situations with calm is to be emotionally intelligent.

Executive presence is to appear, act and speak in a manner that inspires, earning trust and credibility through inner work, outer awareness and effective self-management and projection

Inner awareness = self-management

Inner work = composed behaviour

Outer awareness = relationship management

A must Read: The Surprising Role of Nonverbal Communication in Executive Presence

The generation today

Gone are the days when portraying a stern deadpan exterior was admired. Today people look for connection and purpose, developed through emotional intelligence. The desire for meaningful relationships demands for transparency and empathy.

People need the space and psychological safety to talk about their needs and aspirations concerning their growth and the growth of their organisations. They wish to build rapport with their leaders in a way that contributes to comfort, belonging and respect.

Emotions matter

We are nothing without our emotions. Emotions guide us and tell us how we feel about something or someone. They warn us of potential dangers when we feel anxious, make us laugh with our loved ones when our hearts rejoice, and urge us to reach for help when we feel low.

Emotions also control us in ways that force our actions to be impulsive, erratic and often regretted, all of which are highly incompatible with executive presence.

The emotional balance.

Emotions are beneficial when in balance. They make us who we are, while serving us and others every single day. Executive presence is being present, centred and composed. We don’t want to be making important decisions when we are furious, or to freeze in critical situations.

We want to show up with what is most productively and constructively needed at these times. Pivoting from our current unfavourable emotional state can save many relationships and solve serious problems, resulting in long-term gain.

Emotional management

We cannot effectively manage what we do not recognize and acknowledge.

  1. Awareness: bring an unapologetic and honest awareness to what you are feeling. Suppression and avoidance festers, breeds guilt, and does not help us handle the situation maturely.
  2. Acknowledgement: name the emotion. Verbalising it releases a level of stress. There! You acknowledged it. Now you can work on it.
  3. Regulation: recognizing your emotions helps you manage your behaviour. As you go from awareness to acknowledgement, you have centered yourself to be composed and mindful. The calm and stability direct your next move
  4. Management: Having achieved a steady emotional state, you are prompted to conscious and focused behaviour. You have gone from impulsive to cognizant action. You are in control. You demonstrate an executive presence.

As you master the steps, emotional management comes more naturally to you in any situation. With practice early cues are picked up, and as you sense you may be spiralling down into an emotional turmoil, you are able to get a grip on yourself, achieving timely recovery.

In this way you inspire confidence in others that you are able to effectively manage yourself and situations that come up, keeping up the team’s morale.

You may find it useful: 11 Habits of Effective Leaders Who Master Executive Presence Like a Pro

Emotionally intelligent communication

It is not enough to build empathy. We must demonstrate it through our words, body language and actions for the other person to receive it. Social skills have much to do with having a heightened outer awareness of how others might be feeling or what they might be thinking.

Are they receptive to what we are saying? Do they disagree? Do we sense some discomfort? We don’t not want to be in a situation where we keep talking and are oblivious to the fact that no one is really listening to us.

Being aware of and sensitive to our environment allows us to assert, question, or reiterate so that the dialogue is effective, achieving its objective. We learn to read the room, gauge and adapt for profitable solutions.

Difficult conversations, negotiations and conflict situations are all handled best with high emotional intelligence. We learn to respectfully express instead of withdrawing our thoughts, encouraging others to do the same, inviting mutual trust and very likely a win-win.

As people express their concerns, we listen attentively in order to understand and respond. Often, we get to know of a problem too late, one that could have been solved sooner, for someone was hesitant to share.

Persuasion and influence come from excellent interpersonal skills. If one cannot relate, there is no influence. To assess the impact you have on others, get into their shoes to see how they experience you.

Do your words and actions motivate and support others, or do they demotivate and distance them? If the former, you have a commanding influential presence.

Here are a few approaches to building emotional intelligence:

Red light – yellow light – green light

The Stoplight Approach was created by Cherilyn Orr, an educational consultant and research developer. Say you are in a meeting and something happens. You sense your anger rising and are about to fly off the handle. Picture the red light.

That is your STOP. As you bring your awareness to the anger, you acknowledge and internally name it. Here you arrive at the yellow light. This is where you CONSIDER options you have and how you might want to respond.

Settled emotions propose favourable and responsible actions. You are qualified to act. You are now at the green light. GO for you are ready to act professionally, productively and inspiringly.

Get feedback

Others see sides of us we do not always see or are even remotely aware of. Ask people you trust and have your interest at heart for feedback on your behaviour and approachability. Receive this without taking it offensively, and act on what you believe will help you develop the necessary skills.

Actively Listen

To be absolutely and totally immersed in what the other person is saying is to genuinely try and understand them. This is always sensed by the speaker and sets the tone for some very successful rapport-building conversations and solutions


Apart from benefits of a calmer and healthier self, meditation allows us to be in touch with our inner self. We open up our intuitive mind and develop self-control, better prepared to gracefully handle any rude surprises. Fifteen minutes a day of deep breathing is a life-changer when done regularly.

Build self-worth and self-confidence

Feel good about yourself. Question if angry reactions might sometimes come from pressure, a sense of feeling ‘not enough’, where you have been manipulated to demonstrate your strength or your position in a certain way

Recommended read: How Exactly Confidence and Charisma Improves When You Work on Your Executive Presence

Cultivate flexibility and adaptability.

My way or the highway is the wrong way. The richness of different viewpoints and the abundance of perspectives is lost in a narrow mind. Growth comes from innovation, invention, and inspiration. Be inspired to seek and receive.

You will absorb revolutionary and even opposing ideas with an open mind to contemplate on. Embrace change by easing your way into being more adaptive.


Learn positivity

As a people we are wired to be apprehensive or sceptical. It kept us safe from threats and dangers in the jungle when we needed to be on the lookout for any attacks. It was our survival, our way of protecting ourselves. Therefore, negativity comes quickly to us.

Cultivate new experiences and look for what could be right instead of wrong and good instead of bad. When I am strongly opposed to an idea, I challenge myself to come up with three reasons why it might be a good idea. In a positive state of mind, we act, speak and respond more positively.

Use negative emotions positively.

Our feelings don’t lie. Use your troubling negative emotions to guide you with deeper analysis and reasoning to what they might be trying to tell you or be cautious about, and make informed level-headed decisions.

Emotional intelligence is to be in touch with our feelings and with those of others. It is to monitor and guide our emotions so that they don’t impulsively govern our actions, but where our actions suggest a commanding presence exhibiting confidence, cooperation and connection.

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