Executive presence has nothing to do with having a title or a particular position. It’s not even about being an executive. It’s best defined as a kind of chemistry that attracts people and makes them want to know you when you walk into a room.

It’s a special quality—when you have it, people will notice you. As a leader at any level, it helps you attract followers. It sets you apart.  Watch my video about Executive Presence.

So how do you develop executive presence? This is not something you can go out and buy, like a suit or a watch. It’s infused in every touch point you have with people, from how you shake hands to how you leave a voicemail message to how you work a room. It’s how you enable others to shine.

Years ago, I began working with a woman who had an important title within her organization (she was CFO), but she had been told she lacked executive presence. Once I met with her, I realized that assessment wasn’t entirely correct. It’s not that she lacked executive presence; she just didn’t know how to tap into it. In our work together, she learned how to showcase her expertise. She already possessed the knowledge and competence but didn’t always come across as confident when she engaged with others.

Gaining executive presence wasn’t about changing this very capable individual. Rather, she gave herself permission to be who she was, and to present that image with greater presence and power.

When you possess executive presence, you become a role model for others. It enhances the respect people have for you and encourages them to seek you out for your expertise. It defines your reputation, which I describe as your “brand.” That brand, however, is not something you can own—it’s “bestowed” on you by how others see you.

By developing executive presence, you create stronger leadership. This is not positional, but personal—which means it has to be earned. When you earn that respect, you gain the ability to influence others, who will gladly follow your lead.

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