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Executive Presence Coaching

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Executive presence is considered an important leadership competency for successful executives.  The term is often used to describe a wide range of behaviors, including image, confidence, influence skills,  high impact communication, authenticity, and more. 

How do companies really know what they are buying or how they are measuring the value of executive presence coaching, since I have not seen one common definition yet for this term? 

I've compiled some definitions to help you sort out what it means for your own situation and company.

 As Defined by Leaders

The following are excerpts from 360 degree stakeholder interviews I conducted for a senior level client and how his peers described his Executive Presence.

“When he speaks in the boardroom, people listen."

"Commands a room.”

"Clearly demonstrates credibility on a number of levels and represents the broad interests of the corporate segment very well."

"Listens to all ideas and gives proper attention to those ideas that have merit."

"I can count on him and have confidence in his leadership. No question."

"Speaks up, presents herself in an authoritative manner."

"Can quickly analyze a critical situation and provide guidance and leadership to manage that."

"Confident and eloquent with other leaders."

The Definition Conundrum

8 different interviews netted 8 different definitions.  This contributes to how confusing developing this leadership competency can be.  And it poses a challenge for Executive Coaches who, if they are like me, are determined to be able to help our clients measure their progress and show a ROI for the coaching investment.

here is the approach I have been taking to help my clients make sense of Executive Presence 

  1. Don't assume.  Since there are no one-size-fits all definitions, find out what it means to leaders in your organization.  Companies have different values which drive different leadership priorities.  I coached one organization that values competition and winning therefore their definition was weighted toward stylistic qualities, especially in presentations.  Another company that started as a family business values authenticity and put more focus on being trustworthy to create a family-like culture.
  2. Ask.  Ask the people in your own organization for their definition, much like I did for my client. As you look at the list above, it is evident there are some common themes such as clear and compelling communication and effective listening skills. 
  3. Keep it simple.  Group the behaviors that encompass those themes to simplify a way of understanding the competency.  The categories we see in the list above include the leader's style, business acumen and ability to gain followership.  This helps decide where to narrow down your focus on.  A nice example I found for simplifying the way to define this trait can be found here, described by CSAA Insurance Group Chief Administrative Officer Marie Andel.

Executive Presence is one aspect of what it takes to be an effective leader.  Don't let the multiple factors or the lack of a common definition become too overwhelming.  A solid leadership development strategy will boil down to only focusing on 1-2 most relevant behaviors worth putting time and energy into changing.  Find those that are most pertinent to your situation regardless of the label.

What definition is most meaningful to you? Tell us below!


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