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11 Qualities of Executive Presence

Executive Presence

I’ve noticed an increase in requests from companies and law firms seeking help for high potential leaders to improve their “executive presence”. When I inquire into what they mean by executive presence I get variety responses.

I’ve learned to get clarification by asking the HR person or actual potential executive coaching client to describe the leader’s current behavior and what cultivating more executive presence would look like in behavioral terms. The behaviors range from being more confident to being more authentic and passionate. It sometimes seems to fit “I’ll know it when I see it.” The essence of executive presence can be hard to pin down.

I’ve found that the term executive presence can mean different things to different people. Asking penetrating questions to gain more clarity for both the client and executive coach is critical to the executive coaching process when working on executive presence.

Executive Presence Qualities

The qualities associated with executive presence can be difficult to learn and practice. It may prove impossible to develop them without the help of qualified coaches and mentors. You can work on and improve some of these competencies, but they may evade certain personalities.

Most people aren’t born with executive presence. They develop the requisite skills with experience, maturity and a great deal of effort.

One important caveat: Don’t confuse executive presence with speaking or presentation skills. They’re part of the total package, but presence is what you project wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Your challenge lies in managing others’ perceptions of you, which is no small task.

These 11 qualities contribute to executive presence:

1. Transparency: Genuine, open, straightforward, comfortable in one’s skin. Aims for truth and clarity, even when difficult issues arise. Doesn’t try to please or cover up with spin.

2. Passion:Loves and feels strongly about the profession, job, industry and life in general. Sees and believes in optimism.

3. Clarity: Communicates thoughts, feelings and insights with crystal clarity and simplicity. Master of metaphors and stories that make an impact.

4. Intelligence:The ability to process, retain and apply information, whether it’s academic or street-worthy.

5. Pattern Recognition: The ability to boil down complex factors and mounds of data to rare conclusions. Offers insights others may not see.

6. Results-Oriented: Driven and full of purpose; determined to achieve and succeed. Able to discern dichotomies, unravel paradoxes and work with uncertainties. Flexible and willing to adjust goals. Decisive under pressure. A bias toward action. An attitude of giving, rather than getting. Works in the service of common goals for the organization’s and society’s higher values.

7. Confidence:Not overconfident; has enough self-doubt to be objective. Asks questions and listens.

8. Humility: Willing to admit mistakes, misjudgments, fears and uncertainties in ways that are endearing. Seeks answers and advice; listens to others.

9. Courage:Willing to take risks and positions against considerable odds. May be seen as a maverick. Able to perceive possibilities and innovations.

10. Humor: Not over-the-top, but in the right measure to disarm others’ defenses.

11. Social: Genuinely cares about others; sees both strengths and weaknesses in people. Allows for people to learn from mistakes. Promotes healthy self-esteem in others. Respects others and shows a real—not manufactured or superficial—interest in them.

Keep in mind that no single leader possesses all of these qualities in abundance. For example, many successful CEOs with strong executive presence lack one or more of the likeability factors, such as humor and humility, but they make up for it in other domains.

Are you working in a professional services firm or other organization where executive coaches provide leadership development for emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching to help leaders develop executive presence?  Leaders with highly developed executive presence tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to fully engage employees and customers.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Do I model the 11 qualities of executive presence?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching for collaborative leaders who create sustainable businesses.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you create a culture where all employees are intrinsically motivated and fully engaged. You can become a leader with executive presence who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            415-546-1252      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

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