Do You Have What It Takes to Exude Executive Presence?



The following article is a summary of key observations of higher level Government executives (GS-14 and above) and private sector executives, particularly those that are successful in their careers.

So you’re interested in the concept of “executive presence”? Yes, I am too, particularly in the way psychologically we perceive the movements and actions of others relative to their abilities.

The role of executive presence has long been analyzed and regarded as the suite of commonalities among leaders in an organization. These items are not secrets, but hopefully in reading this, you’ll analyze your own actions and perhaps you already possess some. And if you want to demonstrate and exude the gravitas of executive presence, please do keep reading. And remember . . . you need not be an executive to walk the walk. Simply indulge in your confidence and remember, in the words of Helen Keller: “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

According to research, effective “Exposure” is the most influential factor relative to executive presence. The following four segments are the recipe to executive presence utilizing exposure:

  1. Your appearance
  2. Your assertiveness
  3. Wait for it … I’ll be discussing in a part II
  4. Wait for it …I’ll be discussing in a part II

1. Your Appearance

Within most organizations, a general status quo exists with regard to dress code and appearance. A person seeking executive presence has to assess the culture and decide how to ever slightly do better, what does the tip of the bell curve look like in terms of this dress code? I ask you? Leaders are always “on-stage” for the most part. Looking the part is certainly key because people are evaluating you before you even mumble your propositions or greatest notions. While this harsh reality is a pity, it is quite simple to master. This does not mean using your dress code to exude provocative or overtly attention-seeking clothing, it means that you’ll brainstorm how to appear even more professional.

When I asked a well- known fashion account executive what she thought about appearance, she indicated that intrinsically we all have social understanding of authority and power and if you want to succeed, you’ll have to accept that. One of my greatest mentors also told me that this was by far the easiest aspect of “EP” to achieve. All of this being noted, even with the criticality of appearance, don’t for one moment forget who you are at your core.  Do not entirely lose yourself to a domineering script for a promotion. Find an apropos balance between your personal flare and professional appearance.  And don’t forget to iron!

2. Assertiveness

Whisper intelligent thoughts and no one may listen; add a little bass, tone, and a smile and now you’re on the way to influence — this is in effect assertiveness. Take a gander at this:

A leader facing multiple would-be fallacies: She’s taken them all by the horn and can be: sweet, funny, productive, and assertive all in one. How does one accomplish such an endeavor? Funny, I question the same…? She walks in with high heels, attitude, confidence, and a poise to take on it all. A smile accompanied an assertive and professional outlook… But keep reading —

It’s when one has such upward support from her own leaders, that negative direction cannot be fathomed. This leader exemplifying EP must be assertive especially when the mission of the organization must be conveyed. Additionally this leader must be willing to accept other assertive input from other more seasoned leaders. She must recognize that in their own, her team is satisfactorily both assertive and appearance worthy leading her go to the top. Trust is not always easily attainable, especially at the executive GS-14 and above leading to SES level. The best do it seamlessly, they’ve heard it from the top and are teaching it to their successors. Further, the best are resilient: eyes and ears open, ready for positive affirmations. What’s better than eyes and ears? Resilience and the ability to adapt! 

This one is easy: chin up, eyes engaged, and compassion for the cause. And a smile…

I want you to envision collaborating with an eager leader ready to excel, ready to propel you to the next adventure, and you’re on the ride to together with your own ideas … How does that make you feel? Especially when that person is your boss?

Stay tuned for Part II on the Art of Executive Presence. . .

Jessica Sellers-Duggan is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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richard regan

To be an executive in the federal government, it also helps to be white, 80% of the Senior Executive Service self-identify as White.

I guess executive presence equates to being White.