What’s the big deal about executive presence and how can you get you some?

Executive Presence is gaining a lot of steam as a key area of development for leaders to get them to the next rung. That’s pretty interesting since most people don’t know even know what the heck it is – it tends to fall into the “I’ll know it when I see it” category.

The truth is that executive presence- the ability to own a room and convey confidence – accounts for over 30% of what it takes to get ahead as you get closer to the C-suite.  The more senior you get, the more it matters.

The Center for Talent Innovation – headed by Sylvia Ann Hewlet – has an excellent model – backed by research – to describe executive presence: Gravitas, Communication, Appearance.

  • Gravitas – the ability to own the room, to exude credibility and confidence
  • Communication – to be crisp when necessary, to read the room, to shift your style to the audience
  • Appearance – to look the part


It’s all well and good to know the model. But what can you do to increase your own executive presence?

3 ideas:

  1. Self-assessment: How do you think you do against this framework? What are the areas you think you can improve upon? What are one or two ideas you can think of to help you improve in one element? Awareness is a powerful tool by itself.
  2. Find a role model: Who are 1 or 2 people you look up to who seem to do one of the elements of this model well? It’s helpful to use them as role models, especially if they are indeed more senior than you. Their style may not be the same as your style, but you can observe them and learn good ideas.
  3. Get feedback: Executive presence can be tricky to raise and hard to give input on. Tell your boss (or others you’d like feedback from) that you are honestly interested in their input, that you won’t get defensive. Then, when they offer up a comment or two, listen, nod and say thank you. Over time they will get more comfortable giving you that kind of input.


If you have other ideas on how to improve your executive presence, comment on this blog.

Alisa Cohn is an Executive Coach who specializes in the areas of Executive Presence, Influence and Decision-making. She helps senior leaders and other professional move forward faster. Prior to becoming an executive coach, she was a CFO of a high tech start-up. Reach her at Alisa@AlisaCohn.com; www.AlisaCohn.com; follow her on twitter @AlisaNYC