21 June 2013

Debunking The Executive Presence Myth

I spent last week working with 73 smart women: the 2013 Class of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale.  These women from around the world gathered to hear from experts on what it takes to get elected to office. I had the opportunity to work with each woman, one-on-one, to help her grow her executive presence by focusing on her verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Communications play a big part in executive presence, but as I’ve noted previously on my blog, presence begins inside before it shows up outside!  A strong presence requires clarity about how you, as a leader in politics, business, nonprofits, or government, want to lead and what impact you want to have in your organization.

How we communicate this leadership vision is the external, or outside, part of presence. The 73 women I worked with are unique women — these women are stepping up and looking at how they can make an impact in their communities now.  I had the privilege of helping them fine-tune how they connect with others and ensure their words are empowering and powerful.

I’ve heard people say they can’t have a strong executive presence; unlike these women candidates, they believe they weren’t born with it. I can assure you that although some people may be born with a bit more presence potential than others, those with the most finely-tuned executive and leadership presence in the political, business, nonprofit,  and government arenas, have worked hard to develop it.  Executive presence is not only for CEOs, senators, and those lucky colleagues who just seem to always get promoted.  Building presence is for anyone committed to bringing their best, most effective self to their work and life.

Executive presence looks different from one leader to another, but the constant is that those with a powerful presence have a clear vision about themselves and their purpose, and they have honed their communication skills to connect and lead others.

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