Over the past several years I’ve heard the term “Executive Presence” identified as an area for development from many leaders, executives, managers, human resources and talent management professionals within organizations. It is not unusual for an individual entering into coaching to identify one of his goals as wanting to develop executive presence. When I first heard this term, six or seven years ago, I remember the puzzled look I’d get when I asked, “What is it you mean by executive presence?” Even more puzzling was, “What does the boss really mean?”

It seemed executive presence was the buzz word that encompassed what people were seeing as a polished, knowledgeable and successful executive – Someone who inspires you, who listens, is confident. Someone you want to follow.

Because most of what I heard when I asked what people meant by executive presence was something to the effect of, “You know it when you see it,” I did some research to try to succinctly and simply identify the characteristics and behaviors that make up executive presence.

I looked at traditional sources on leadership and goggled the term. I found several articles that went back to about 2002 when it seemed executive presence started to emerge as a term important to successful leaders and organizations. One of the articles I found was by Paul Aldo, PhD, www.executivepresence.com. Dr. Aldo defines executive presence by “nine expressive dimensions.” He categorizes these into the Personal Dimensions, Communications Dimensions and Relational Dimensions. His article is on the executivepresence.com website and definitely worth reading.

I took Dr. Aldo’s article and studied the dimensions along with what I know and have observed about leaders over the years and formulated my own list of characteristics. Over the past few years, I’ve asked clients as well as several of their bosses, executives, leaders and human resources professionals to review the list to verify if these are the characteristics they imagine when they speak of executive presence, and I’ve modified them slightly in attempt to more clearly describe. You will find my list below. Take a look and let me know what you think. Do these capture what’s meant by executive presence? Is anything missing?

A leader projects a presence that demonstrates:
SELF-CONFIDENCE: Calm, steady approach projecting confidence & professionalism
INTEGRITY: Trustworthy, honest, follows through and doesn’t step over issues
OPENNESS: Listens and engages in open, honest conversations
THOUGHTFULNESS: Thoughtful approach thinking before speaking – responds rather than reacts
APPRECIATION: Appreciates, listens and engages with others in a way that is warm and caring
PASSION AND CLARITY: Clear compelling vision and skill in inspiring others
EFFECTIVENESS: Decisive, Efficient, Prepared and strategic
POLITICAL AWARENESS: Knows how and who to network with and how to communicate/navigate the environment to accomplish the goal.