Executive Presence: It’s More Than Commanding a Room

Executive Presence: It’s More Than Commanding a Room

executive presence
Executive Presence isn’t projected–it is a cumulative effect.

Executive recruiters look for it.  Leadership surveys try to measure it. A long list of consultants and coaches want to help people get it.

This hard-to-define, yet widely desired trait is executive presence.

Search for a concise definition of executive presence and the 1.2 million results Google offers include an endless list of attributes and behaviors—appearance, charisma, communication, gravitas. humility, social skills, style, body language, composure, decisiveness, and more.

One of the “experts” defines executive presence as “the ability to master perception.” That’s making people feel like you are honest or compassionate—even if you aren’t. Coaching people to master perception, project an image, and command the crowd makes the journey to develop executive presence sound like a manipulative sales technique or a one-style-fits-all formulaic approach to leading people.

Presence happens. Executive presence is a cumulative effect. What composes presence is paramount. Presence is the outcome of developing authentic character, expressed through the self-awareness, social awareness, likeability, engagement, communication, and appearance that frame genuine character into executive presence. Without character, executive presence is posing at best, and in a weaker moment, a well-positioned ruse.

Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  When an executive focuses on perception and projection, people will likely see an inauthentic representation of who the leader supposes they should be—not who the leader is.

When you have authentic presence, you are able, as John Eldredge suggests, to “let people feel the weight of who you are.”

A New Edge for Ockham’s Razor

A New Edge for Ockham’s Razor

Ockham's Razor
Ockham’s Razor

Hanlon’s razor is funny – “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

Alder’s is alegedly sharper – “If something cannot be settled by experiment or observation, it is not worthy of debate.”

Rand’s is a bit of a head-scratcher – “Concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity, nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity.” Huh?

But since the 14th century, Ockham’s razor has sliced through more layers of complexity than any other philosophy. Friar and philosopher William Ockham proposed that “among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”

If Ockham were sitting in a corporate board room instead of his convent, he’d likely say something like, “Simplicity and focus lead to the best outcomes. Don’t waste time assuming anything, especially that more options result in better choices.”

Unneeded complication arising from superfluous options is a common malady in corporations today. Outcomes are often more related to individual competence than to the size or breadth of an organization. Diversification can dilute focus as much as it reflects versatility. Global sounds impressive, but not if you need help in a small town in Iowa.

The next time you face a decision, get out your razor and trim away the complexity. DaVinci reminded us, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”