How Executive Presence Training Builds Leaders

Throughout the business world, leaders have “it” — an intangible quality, but felt by all those around them. The elusive quality isn’t innate either. It’s practiced and fine-tuned over the years and is an outward quality compared to traditional expertise, education, and experience.

So what is this intangible, elusive quality? It’s known as executive presence, a quality that every leader within a company should have. Discover how you can bolster executive presence in your business through executive presence training, and take your leadership development programs to the next level.

What Is Executive Presence?

At its core, executive presence is defined as inspiring confidence within a team or organization through how one acts, speaks, or looks. It’s how one carries themselves around others from subordinates to other high-level executives.

A leader with executive presence is omnipresent, creating awareness of their role to others, pushing subordinates to do their best work, and exuding confidence to key decision-makers in the organization.

Similar to leadership presence, executive presence relates to confidence and reliability. Others see an individual with executive presence as a capable leader who practices self-awareness, professionalism, and effective communication.

Unfortunately, executive presence doesn’t have a textbook definition due to its infancy in leadership jargon, as well as the inability to quantify it through statistics or figures. It simply is or is not, making the path to executive presence difficult without proper training.

What Is Executive Presence Training?

Happy businessman smiling with his arms folded

Executive presence isn’t an inherent quality in most individuals. It’s part of professional development that’s grasped and absorbed over time with the proper training and experience. Like leadership programs, executive presence training programs give individuals the tools, techniques, and skills they need to convey credibility and confidence.

While most executive presence training programs have a similar curriculum, successful training programs combine theoretical and applied leadership knowledge, personalized and expert coaching, and practical, hands-on exercises.

Like leadership programs, executive presence training centers on the competencies and needs of individual leaders and their organizations, as well as their time frames and budgets. Some executive presence training programs act as an executive leadership retreat while others are just one- or two-day events.

Regardless of the format, executive presence training enhances leadership presence and those intangible yet important qualities that enhance presence and influence within the company.

The Cornerstones of Executive Presence and Executive Presence Training

Sylvia Ann Hewlett first theorized the idea of executive presence in her 2014 book “Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success.” In the text, Hewlett discusses the three pillars that govern executive presence:

These three cornerstones of executive presence are the focal points of executive presence training. If one can master these three tenets, others see them as reliable, charismatic, dependable, and confident — all characteristics that form a successful leader, inspiration, and visionary.

What To Expect During Executive Presence Training

Improving gravitas, communication, and appearance may seem easy on the surface. But few people — if any — are born with innate executive presence skills. A closer look into these tenets creates tangible concepts and ideas that a person can put into practice, leading to useful takeaways and tidbits in an executive or C-suite position.

The format of executive presence training is similar to executive leadership training but with a more focused approach to the three pillars. Breaking them into smaller, focused sections serves to digest them while absorbing potential ways to use them in your daily operations. Here’s what you should expect during an executive presence training program.

Gravitas Training

How you carry yourself can make a marked impact on how others see you. But it starts within. Self-confidence and belief in your abilities is the foremost notion of gravitas. Without poise, the right body language, and self-reflection, the executive presence you attempt to exude falls short.

During gravitas training, you learn the concept of self-confidence and its importance as a leader or manager. Transparency, authenticity, and assertiveness are integral to this learning process, but it’s necessary for those lacking confidence.

Charisma is equally crucial. You want to command the attention of the room without seeming egotistical. But you also want to become dually approachable and empathetic. Social acuity is a must, and business etiquette during conference calls, one-on-one and group meetings, and dinners can further improve your executive presence.

Training doesn’t answer every question or make those tough decisions. Nevertheless, it empowers you to follow your instinct, remain tactful in difficult situations, and lead your organization through any hurdles.

Communication Training

Look at any managerial or C-suite job description, and you’ll find a common thread — great communication. Whether you’re leading a team meeting and leaning on your interpersonal skills or sharing your ideas, communication training is every bit as paramount.

Regarding executive presence, communication isn’t just the ability to convey written or verbal messages. It’s the skill of leading a remote or in-person discussion and inspiring others to react positively to your message or task.

Moreover, great communication is just as much about emotional intelligence and listening as it is about speaking. The give-and-take is seamless and genuine, instilling an empathetic and caring feeling in your colleagues and coworkers.

Public speaking is also a decisive factor in whether your executive presence becomes full-fledged. Just like you would in a meeting, you need to grab the attention of others.

Throughout history, world leaders have focused on public speaking to rally people toward a common goal or cause. But great leaders are also great learners. Knowing what to say and how to say it is integral to the success of a superb orator. So whether you’re leading a webinar, podcast, in-person meeting, or video conference, it’s not just what you say — it’s how you say it.

Executive presence training gives you the tools to communicate in ways others struggle to achieve. You command attention, lead by example, and instill an urge for success from the top down.

Appearance Training

Think of your appearance as part of your personal brand. Work ethic and intelligence are pivotal to your brand. Still, without a strong reputation, an outgoing personality, and words to match your actions (and vice-versa), your brand isn’t nearly as strong.

Creating a positive personal brand through appearance is a major portion of executive presence training. Your network of clients, colleagues, and partners value your opinion and put credence in your decisions and thought processes.

However, you can’t form a personal brand on your own in most cases. Mentorships, executive coaching, and a third-party perspective of yourself are all vital facets of appearance training.

A positive personal brand is also the result of your appearance — or as the old saying goes — dress to impress. Proper grooming and attire lends itself to a more positive executive presence; one that says you’re serious about the job and have the confidence to make the right decisions.

The more you embrace the importance of your appearance, the better your chances of excelling in your pursuit of executive presence. It may not reflect your aptitude or skills, but appearance positions you for better odds of advancement, more responsibility, and ultimately, success.

Executive Presence Coaching

Beyond the three pillars of executive training, executive presence coaching and constructive criticism are central to a high-impact retreat or program. Much like in real life, opening your mind to ideas that can improve yourself is tantamount to success. It’s this frame of mind that can aid you in the successful completion of the training and turn your executive presence into a vital part of the organization.

The Benefits of Executive Presence Training

Attentive employees working together on a white board

An executive presence training program is the precursor to a more successful business. In a sense, it can transform your organization through improved leadership, but it also comes with a number of other positives. Some benefits of taking an executive presence program include:

  • Productivity improvements: A leader with executive presence can instill a feeling of satisfaction and pride in employees. This can generate more productivity, which in turn, can have a positive effect on the entire business.
  • Knowing when to make changes: Executive presence, especially regarding empathy and emotional intelligence, can identify problematic areas within a business. Whether the issue lies with personnel, operations, or another aspect of the business, a leader with executive presence training can make the necessary changes seamlessly and confidently.
  • Happier employees: Employers are happier when they trust their manager or leader. By leaning on executive presence tenets, business leaders invoke a sense of meaning in work, which leads to happier employees and lower turnover.
  • Better reputation: Whether they’re aware or not, customers, clients, and suppliers want to work with someone with an executive presence. The trust this fosters translates to a better work relationship and long-lasting loyalty.

Putting Your Executive Presence Training Into Action

Executive presence training is an important stepping stone for an emerging, ambitious leader or even those who’ve led the troops for years. Paired with leadership skills training, this two-pronged method of executive education can lead to a more cohesive team, the ability for advancement, and a focused, successful organization. All you need to do is put it into practice.

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