Become a leader with executive presence by being vocal, stating ideas with conviction, being decisive, and radiating calm.
Today’s post is by Joel Garfinkle, thoughtLEADERS instructor, executive coach, and author of Executive Presence: Step Into Your Power, Convey Confidence, and Lead with Conviction. (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
If you want to advance to high levels in your career—and make the greatest possible impact—you need to become a leader with executive presence. Here are 4 areas of focus I urge you to begin with. You can easily begin making these changes in your next meeting, one-on-one, or virtual call.
- Be vocal, yet concise.
No, this is not an oxymoron. Great leaders speak up often, participating actively in discussions—yet they don’t drone on endlessly. They make smart, incisive comments that spark discussion. They voice thoughts succinctly, so others grasp them immediately. They participate throughout every discussion, but they don’t dominate it. When they speak, others want to hear more, not less.
Many people fall into the “I don’t have anything to say” trap. But I promise you, you do have plenty to contribute. Challenge yourself to bring a mental list of key points you want to make in a meeting. As you speak up more, you’ll get more comfortable thinking of things to say in the moment. But even then, it will be helpful to gather your thoughts about each agenda item, particularly those that pertain to your expertise.
Every idea doesn’t need to be earth-shattering in order to advance the discussion in some way. For instance, you might make comments like these:
- Summarizing how the group feels about the issue at hand.
- Commending a colleague for her amazing work on a project being discussed, highlighting what might have gone unrecognized.
- Pointing out where two disagreeing colleagues have common ground.
Speaking up in ways like these will benefit the group and give you a strong presence in the discussion.
- State ideas with conviction.
When you speak up, let your conviction for your opinions shine through. Practice eliminating qualifier words and phrases like “I’m not sure if it’s relevant, but…” and voice ideas boldly.
When you speak, try to project your voice so you’ll sound more confident. Use open body language, maintaining good posture, which will reflect in your voice as well. And when a topic comes up that you want to weigh in on, don’t hesitate. This will present you as more self-assured. Pay attention to your tone and cadence as well. If you’re speaking too quickly, you’ll sound more nervous. Use the power of the pause, or vary your pacing, to give your words the gravity they deserve.
- Be decisive.
Most of us are prone to deliberating for far too long unless we challenge ourselves to make decisions quickly. Building your decision-making muscle takes practice, but you will get more confident over time. Start by going with your gut about minor choices. Then, when faced with a big decision, set a time frame appropriate to the importance and urgency of the choice. Here are a couple of examples:
- You’re considering whether you need to add a specific new role to your team. You meet with several people whose perspectives are most important, then consider their input during your weekly reflection time. As a result, you use your time efficiently rather than mulling over the possibilities in an unfocused way.
- You need to approve or disapprove a proposed marketing strategy that diverges sharply from your current one. So, after watching a presentation by the marketing team, you meet with key staff to discuss follow-up questions. Satisfied with their thorough research and clear answers, you give the approval and announce the change enthusiastically.
You’ll never have all of the information, so prioritize taking action. Most leaders find it’s better to correct course later, if needed, then delay an important decision.
- Radiate calm.
In difficult situations, be the calm within the storm. Whether it’s a major crisis or an annoying problem, maintain your composure. You’ll become the person that others can rely on to steer the ship toward calmer waters.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Here are some steps you can take to develop that calm presence:
- Adopt simple practices you can do during your workday to find calm, like taking a short walk.
- Try to remain emotionally balanced and mentally composed by sleeping, eating, and exercising well.
- Pay attention to your voice—is the pitch rising? Take a breath and try to speak in a more relaxed tone.
- Delegate effectively. Who can take on what roles to help? Giving people clear tasks will help them stay calm in turn, knowing they’re contributing to a solution.
It may feel counterintuitive, but by exuding calm, you’ll reconcile problems more quickly and with better results.
Follow these principles during the course of the day. They will benefit you in every situation, and you’ll find yourself drawing upon them countless times throughout your work week. Before long, others will begin to perceive you as a more capable and powerful leader, which will grow your influence, charisma, and ability to drive change. And most importantly, as you become a leader with executive presence, you’ll win their trust.
Joel Garfinkle is the author of Executive Presence: Step Into Your Power, Convey Confidence, and Lead with Conviction. He has 23 years of experience as an executive presence coach, conducting webinars, keynotes, and one-on-one coaching programs. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work newsletter and his YouTube channel, which has over 200 easily actionable 2-minute inspirational video clips.
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