How to know if you have executive presence

When you are in that high-stakes meeting, sales presentation, interaction, or conflict your executive presence is both emotional and physiological. Your thoughts are racing and your heart rate is escalating. People watch you. How do you execute at your highest level when the pressure is on?

When you walk into a room you know who has executive presence and who does not. It is something people see very quickly. You either exude presence or you do not. You either are drawn to pay attention to someone or you are not. Some people make their way to the C-Suite because of their executive presence even though they are not the best leaders. Unfortunately, many good leaders do not because they don’t have it.

Executive presence grows with heightened confidence and self-esteem. They are not the same thing. Confidence is being capable. Self-esteem is how you feel about your worthiness and value. We build confidence by intentionally challenging ourselves and regulating our emotions in the moment. Take risks that matter. We build self-esteem by accepting ourselves with all our imperfections.

That means you know the goal but focus on being your best without pre-occupation with the outcome of your performance or people’s judgment of you. Slow down your breathing and your focus moves from worry thoughts to following your breath. That clearing allows you to observe your behavior before emotions move you into fight-or-flight. Build you executive presence with this free eBook Be the New SMART Leader.

A prime athlete trains to win. When the game is played he isn’t focused on the score, just doing is best right now. If he gets frustrated, he is not at his best. 

You know you have HIGH executive presence when you …

1. Do what you believe is right in the face of controversy.

2. Step outside what is comfortable to risk the unknown.

3. Have the humility to admit your mistakes and learn from them.

4. Don’t need outside validation because your internal satisfaction and self-acceptance are enough

5. Give away the glory because the goal was a team goal and you’d have never achieved it without them.

6. Accept compliments graciously. “Thank you. I’m pleased you find it useful. 

7. Notice self-doubt and take action anyway as opposed to waiting for conditions to be perfect.

8. Can let go of something whose time has passed, especially when you have a lot invested in it. 

You know you have LOW executive presence when you …

1. Modify your behavior based on what other people think.

2. Play it safe, freeze when you feel judged, hold back because it “isn’t fair,” or “not the right time” and avoid risk.

3. Deny mistakes, cover them up, blame others, or hope to remedy the problem before anyone notices.

4. Seek attention and recognition to validate your good work.

5. Brag about your virtues or take the credit for the work of others.

6.  Dismiss compliments offhandedly because you don’t feel you deserve them or the attention makes you uncomfortable.

Build your executive presence by noticing your thoughts and executing mindful choices in the moment without judging. Mindful practices that build presence include: paying attention to your breathing pattern for three minutes – “I’m breathing in. I’m breathing out,” writing two things you are grateful for each day in your Gratitude Journal, and making a conscious effort to smile and connect.

Have executive presence no matter where you are seated at the table. You belong there because you are capable.

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at

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