I’m speaking to a summer MBA class today about executive presence. It’s not something taught in schools, yet it’s probably one of the things executives in big jobs ask about the most. It should probably be a part of the curriculum for business grad students; just like emotional intelligence training should be required in medical and law school.
So, executive presence. It comes in a lot of forms. It is definitely fueled by emotional intelligence, and I think another ingredient that is critical in the equation is trust. When neuroscientists break trust down in the brain, they find that it shows up in many different areas. The easiest way to think about trust is that the brain makes quick and parallel judgments about you based on integrity (do I believe you? Do you seem honest?); dependability (do you do what you say you’re going to do?); and competence (can you do the job? Do you have the smarts and ability). You can probably surmise…trust is NOT something you get overnight. The brain has to see you in repeat performances of the three things mentioned above.
When there is trust in a relationship, it brings about a presence you can’t replicate by holding your body properly or using eye contact…or many of the other physical attributes so often relied upon as devices for executive presence (they are a part of the equation…just not the only part, as is often believed). If you don’t understand what trust beings you…think about a relationship in which there is low or no trust. How do you behave? How do you think others view you in that relationship? How does it feel? It’s pretty bleak when there is no trust and we behave accordingly. You’ll take a major ding in executive presence without trust.
For an executive, they must have trust with a group…not just one person. That requires the above ingredients seen over and over and over again, quite publically.
I suggest to executives before they give a speech to run through their talk to make sure that somewhere in it they are addressing integrity (being boldly and sometimes baldly honest), dependability (demonstrating that you said something and you followed through) and competent (showing that you know how to be an executive…which is easier said than done. Don’t come off as a bragging ass on this one.)
That’s executive presence in a very high level nutshell.