Executive Presence: What and how to apply

Executive Presence: What and how to apply - executive presence

Executive Presence has many interpretations and it’s hard to define something that depends on perception. It is something that we feel or find lacking in a leader. A person with executive presence is someone reliable, inspiring, someone who can motivate you to take on projects that you thought were impossible. They’ll know to hold themselves together during stressful times and could exude competence through calmness. This attribute has become crucially important during the last decade as the global economy went through a roller coaster ride. Employees and investors alike, associate a personality with a brand name, such as Steve Jobs with Apple and Elon Musk with Tesla. These leaders are not all the brains behind these industry giants but they’ve aligned millions of people to act to deliver and generate trust. But how exactly can we work towards developing these leadership attributes and how does it generate value for an organization?

Why Executive Presence?

Why does an organization require executive presence from its leaders?

  • Drive an organization towards a unified vision
  • Instill calm during stressful events such as a pandemic, market disruption etc.
  • Inspire teams and employees to excel and innovate

So, if you are aiming to climb that ladder introspecting how you are perceived by colleagues and bosses would be beneficial.

To deal with unprecedented industry events leadership sometimes needs to take precedence to technical depth. And that’s when you set yourself apart for the next big opportunity. To develop executive presence we first need to evaluate where we stand currently. We need to be honest with ourselves and introspect and stack our self-assessment against our long-term goals to devise a path to improvement.

Be sincere in asking for help and get continuous feedback on improving your product, idea and behaviors. It would require time and effort but would enable creativity and help establish your own brand. You don’t only need to have knowledge but need to stand-out as a leader.

Pillars of executive presence

  • Gravitas – How you act. This is a broad attribute and varies depending on industry. It includes how we perform under pressure and take criticism, if we do the right thing when situations are gray and our ability to command a room.
  • Communication – How you speak. Humans being pioneers of language spend very less time to form opinions. Lingual aspects play an important role. Vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, pitch, tone express your knowledge of language whereas narrative, story-telling, argumentation and body language establish your command of technical subjects and creativity.
  • Appearance – This has acquired a whole new dimension during the pandemic. Choice of clothing and grooming has converted to choice of zoom background, ambient lighting and efficient grooming. But nonetheless, appearance is important to set you apart. Looking at expressions during a conversation allows us to connect more.

Where do I begin?

Executive presence is not something someone is born with. Leadership styles evolve as people are presented with challenging scenarios during their professional careers. But mindfulness during interactions and monitoring responses to situations could potentially take us closer to our goals of the corner office.

  • Become self-aware – introspect and seek 360 degree feedback
  • Master body language – exude confidence and make others comfortable
  • Practice makes perfect – adopt an improvement mindset
  • Focus on appearance – appropriate, comfortable and confident
  • Awareness – know the ropes well

To keep a check on progress and improvements seeking feedback from an invested mentor is essential. Whether you want to chart a path to the C-suite or just want to be perceived as a competent leader, executive presence is a skill that you can develop. Remember, it has nothing to do with becoming someone you are not. Rather, it’s about bringing out the best version of yourself.


  • Executive Presence: What and how to apply executive presence

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  • Executive Presence: What and how to apply executive presence

    Jisha Bhattacharjee

    Jisha Bhattacharjee is a Development Planner in ExxonMobil and also leads the SWE – ExxonMobil India network. She graduated from NIT Rourkela in 2018 with a Bachelors’ degree in Chemical Engineering and has been a Global Ambassador since 2019. She led ‘Supporting Global Affiliates’ workgroup in 2021 and serves as Professional Development Lead in Global Women Engineers AG and Content Development Lead (Ambassador WG) this year. Her aim is to collaborate with SWEsters to enable professional excellence with shared learning and collective growth.