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The Essential Guide to B.E.E.P Skills: 4 Critical Competencies for Leadership Success Pt. 3

by Kima L. Tozay, LICSW

In Part 1 of “The Essential Guide to B.E.E.P Skills” series, I shared the secrets of developing business acumen. In Part 2, I uncovered the superpowers of emotionally intelligent leadership. In Part 3, I’ll demystify executive presence, identify specific tools and strategies you’ll need to build credibility and establish your personal brand as a leader.

What is Executive Presence?

Do you look, sound and act like a leader? When you speak, do you command attention? Are you an influencer? These are just a few questions to help you examine how you show up as a leader.

Another word for executive presence is gravitas, which is believed to be a critical success factor and an essential skill to add to one’s leadership toolbox.

According to the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), there are three pillars of executive presence: gravitas, communication and appearance or professional image. Each pillar includes a set of behaviors that work harmoniously to help you build a strong leadership presence and personal brand. These behaviors include qualities such as self-confidence, exuding grace under fire, having good speaking skills and appearing well-groomed.

As a leaders’ secret weapon, executive presence is particularly beneficial for women leaders who must strategically navigate workplace politics and gender biases. Research findings from CTI’s 2013 study found that 56% of women and people of color reported feeling that they are held to a higher standard in regards to executive presence, with 81% feeling unsure how to act on the feedback they received about their leadership presence and noting that the feedback was also highly contradictory. CTI’s research underscores the notion that how you look, speak and act are still vitally important and can impact the trajectory of one’s career.

7 Strategies for Developing Executive Presence

If you want to be a leader, you must act like one. If you aren’t sure how to get started on the journey to becoming the leader you’ve always wanted to be, consider following these strategies:

1.) Exhibit self-confidence in three key areas:

a.) In your appearance. Always dress for success and pay attention to your body language.

b.) In your communication. Communicate your ideas clearly and concisely.

c.) In your decision making. Be bold and confident about your decisions.

2.) Practice mindfulness by reciting a mantra or positive affirmations that promote a healthy self-image.

3.) Become a copycat. Emulate the leaders you admire most. With enough practice, you’ll acquire your own unique style.

4.) Take a communications course or build your skills through a comprehensive program, like Cornell University’s 15-week online certificate program in Executive Prescence.

5.) Sharpen your public speaking skills in a supportive environment by joining a Toastmasters Club online or in your local community.

6.) Read Amy Cuddy’s Presence; Herminia Ibarra’s Act like a Leader, Think Like a Leader; or John Baldoni’s 12 Steps to Power Presence: How to Assert Your Authority to Lead. These and other popular leadership books will help you develop your own voice as a leader.

7.) Complete a 360-degree leadership development assessment and get feedback from peers and your supervisor. Remember, feedback is a gift.

Developing Your Executive Presence Action Plan

Now that you have some idea of what it takes to show up as the strong and confident leader that you are, I highly recommend that you create an action plan to take your personal brand to the next level. An action plan answers several questions: Where am I now? Where do I want to be? How do I get there? How will I know when I have arrived?

Here’s how to create one:

  • First identify one goal that you want to develop. For example, to increase my confidence I will read one book on executive presence and practice one new skill from what you learned for one week.
  • Then create a concrete plan for action to carry out your goal. Using a S.M.A.R.T Goal format is one approach to making your plan specific and measurable.
  • Write down your goal and action plan in a journal or on a sticky note. Research suggests that writing down your goals increases the likelihood that you’ll accomplish them.
  • Next, make your plan visible. Post it in your office or on your bathroom mirror at home. Reference it daily. Take a picture of your plan and save it to your phone.
  • Finally, practice, practice, practice, then practice some more. Every new skill takes time to refine.

As you chart the course of your leadership journey, you’ll want to seriously consider sharpening your executive presence. Stay tuned to the finale of “The Essential Guide to B.E.E.P Skills” series, where we tackle the importance of political savvy for leadership success in Part 4.

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected] And to read more from our summer/fall 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort and a link to their stories.

Kima Tozay is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and subject matter expert on Counseling and Advocacy programs in her role at Navy Fleet & Family Support Center, Everett, Washington. Her government career spans 15 years, starting in the Navy. Kima completed her Masters in Social Work degree from the University of Washington and has held positions with the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) and the Army. Kima’s greatest career accomplishment is receiving the Federal Employee of the Quarter Award for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. She earned an Executive Leadership Certificate from Graduate School, USA. You can connect with Kima on LinkedIn.

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