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Executive Presence: The Magnetism of Leadership

Picture this...two leaders walk into a room (sounds like the start of a bad joke, huh?)... One commands attention effortlessly, while the other, despite their competence, somehow fades into the background. What sets them apart? That's the essence of Executive Presence (EP). Today, let's dive into a topic that's crucial yet often overlooked as it relates to leadership development. Executive Presence is a unique blend of qualities that make a leader stand out, inspiring confidence and respect in any room they enter. It's not just about what they say or do; it's about how they make people feel. It's the intangible 'it' factor that combines confidence, poise, and authenticity, turning a good leader into an unforgettable one.

Consider the concept of Executive Presence (EP) as the distinctive blend of personal demeanor and interpersonal engagement, complemented by the aura one emanates. It encompasses both the personal and professional narratives of an individual, woven into a compelling story. This "story" may evolve into a legend or myth, shaped by the perceptions and experiences of those one interacts with. EP distinguishes between merely occupying a leadership position and genuinely impacting others' lives.

You may have picked it up in the previous paragraph. "perception" is the aspect of EP that can't be overstated. To best understand EP, we have to first recognize it is a perception, and the best we can do to influence it, is to do the BEST we can do. What one person sees in you as a leader, another may feel completely different about. This is based on our individual personalities, what we value, what we believe, our experiences, and simply what we like or don't like. EP is not something we can define for ourselves, nor is it something a title or a degree can qualify on our behalf. That's what makes the five dimensions of EP a bit tricky. Let's break them down:

  1. Verbal or Communication Dimension: This is all about how you express your thoughts. A leader who's good in this dimension can get their ideas across clearly and compellingly. You might recognize those not so strong in this area, using too much jargon or "circling their point", saying the same thing over and over in different ways, or perhaps they over-talk and never allow time for others to interject, or talk too fast.

  2. Visual Dimension: This represents a persons appearance, their hairstyle, the way they dress, make-up, how they walk, etc.. Leaders who perfect this dimension often have a powerful presence–they stand tall, make eye contact, and use gestures well. These leaders make an impression from a distance. Those who do not prioritize their visual appearance risk appearing less confident, articulate, and professional. "You never get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression."

  3. Kinesthetic: This dimension speaks to a person's overall energy and the impact it has on others. Kinesthetic is often characterized as 'charisma' or a person's ability to energize others; how dynamic they are in a group or audience. A leader who is kinesthetically overt is often described as one who commands a room with their presence. One who lacks it is often referenced as the one who takes the wind out of a room when they walk in.

  4. Sociability Dimension: This is a leader's knack for connecting with people. This dimension of executive presence is determined by one's level of approachability, vulnerability, and the ease with which they can build a genuine relationship with someone else. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this dimension is also determined by one's presence on social media, an evaluation of who a person truly is, in what appears as their most authentic self.

  5. Presence or "Gravitas": The intangible roll up of all 4 dimensions, the thing you cannot put your finger on, rather is simply understood to be a person's "it" factor, or "jen-e-se-que". Gravitas is the weight you carry, or the space your presence consumes in a room. It's how much influence you bring to the conversation, the impact of your decision-making, and the level of respect you command. Leaders thought to who exude calmness and confidence during times of stress and pressure are often thought of as having gravitas.

Executive presence has the power to draw people to you, to open doors, and earn greater levels of respect. It has the power to boost a person's career, but yet, an equitable level to destroy it. One moment, or one infraction, has the power to shift a persons 'executive presence' perception in a way that can be irrevocable. It can draw people to you as swiftly as it can repel them from you. When drawn to you, it makes them want to learn from you, which then becomes your leadership trademark, your story, your legend, your...executive presence.

To conclude, EP is the essence of leadership, rooted in confidence and demonstrated through communication, appearance, charisma, and sociability. All then culminating into gravitas, defined by a leader's ability to inspire and connect. It is the blending of personal and professional experiences into a narrative that shapes and influences others, making it more than a trait, making it a pivotal force in one's career success.

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