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The Harvey Nash APAC blog includes a range of topics, covering all industry sectors from board governance overviews to employment trends in the region, including a 'How to' series that offers a range of insights from the APAC team based on frequently asked questions by clients and candidates.

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How to develop executive presence

Sophie Gray, Marketing and Communications Director APAC explores the concept of executive presence and shares her advice on how it can be developed.

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There is no universal definition of executive presence, which is what makes it so elusive as a concept and as something that can be measured.


Executive presence is a highly perceivable concept and it is essentially an individual's impact - both visual and aural.  Content is a key component - content with resonance, credibility and that demonstrates deep thought. 


Whatever you think of the concept, executive presence is a MUST for success in the corporate world.  Some are blessed with innate executive presence, but the good news is it CAN be learnt and plenty have.  All successful executives have to work on it - they are successful purely because they are the ones willing to continually grow and improve.


The signs of executive presence


People with executive presence exude 'the X-factor' or magnetism.  As a result people tend to gravitate to them and they are able to easily influence others.


They tend to project an air of confidence (quiet confidence in some cases) and are highly decisive (a by-product of dealing effectively with leadership situations).  Furthermore, they demonstrate poise under pressure.


The following are clear indications of executive presence:

  • Communication skills - including speaking and listening skills, assertiveness and the ability to read a room or situation
  • Overall presentation - positive body language, poise and eye contact


Many assume executive presence is all about how you present yourself and although key communication skills will greatly help, it is more about situational comfort and self-assuredness. Being comfortable in the company of others is essential, in additional to being comfortable on a stage. 


Many introverted people feel that they are at a disadvantage in this sense, but you can have strong executive presence and be the introverted type.  Executive presence doesn't mean you have to be the most extrovert person in a room, in fact quite often it is the exact opposite.


The concept of executive presence around the world


There are distinct cultural nuances to executive presence, for example in the West - people are encouraged to be assertive and forthright, whereas in the East people are encouraged to blend in rather than stand out.  In the Asia Pacific region for instance, executive presence is defined by others in the room.  Their behaviour will ensure certain individuals stand out, rather than those individuals standing out through their own actions. 


3 steps for developing your executive presence


Anyone who has a baseline of self-confidence, a willingness to learn and a want to make a change, can develop executive presence.  Communication skills such as listening and speaking skills are essential and can be taught: 


  1. Hone your presentation skills, as public speaking is an important executive requirement.  Ensure you are comfortable in any situation.  Hire an executive coach to support you and throw yourself into tough speaking challenges - practice makes perfect!


  1. Find your individual style by working on your content and delivery.  Identify your communication assets - work on listening, maintaining composure and reacting quickly to issues.


  1. Dress sense and personal presentation is a key factor and this can definitely be learned and put into practice immediately.  See a 'make-over' expert to help with your overall presentation, dress and composure.


For many, executive presence is something that is developed and cultivated over the duration of their careers.  It is essential for success and cannot be overlooked, so be sure to invest time and effort in honing your executive presence.


For further advice on how to develop your own executive presence please don't hesitate to contact me directly.


For more 'How to' advice don't forget to re-visit this blog.  If you have any suggestions for a future 'How to' piece please get in touch with us