Building Executive Presence

19 Mar

Janie Sharritt, a mid-level employee at Sara Lee & Co., decided when driving home from work that she would take steps to get promoted and make her ideas heard. She reflects on her lack of assertiveness, “The quick buy-in wasn’t something I was known for”. Ms. Sharritt attended a conference on the “Power of Image”, and dove into the idea of building an executive presence. She changed her hairstyle, dressed in classier clothes, and even wore more make-up. Soon enough, executives at Sara Lee noticed Ms. Sharritt’s presence and her ideas held more weight; she was promoted from mid-level management to an executive position.

A study by the Center of Work-Life Policy states that executives at Fortune 500 companies all have similar characteristics. For one, they possess a unique presence formed by years of polishing self-confidence and management strategies. Executives act with assertion and have the ability to make quick strategy decisions. Luckily for us and for Janie Sharritt, these characteristics are not innate, but built over a period of time. The following tips can be used for furthering your personal executive presence specially tailored to fit your personality.

  1. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses. We often look past our own shortcomings that can hold us under a glass ceiling. To build a successful career, we must be introspective to find what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Ask a Friend. There’s no better way to identify your own weaknesses than through constructive criticism. You may ask a friend for their opinion on your executive presence and how you work in a team environment. You may also muster up the confidence to ask those whom you don’t consider friends, as they often analyze us most critically.
  3. Take Notes. Writing down what works for the executives in your office can help you understand what to improve upon. For college students not in an executive environment, take notes on the actions of professors or even your own peers that command a presence in the classroom.
  4. Act Natural. Your executive presence should be about you. Only note actions that you that feel comfortable and normal with. We’re taking steps to raise the executive presence within ourselves, not to change who we are.
  5. Get Advice. Major companies around the world offer workshops to their employees about “Command Presence”, “Constructive Confrontation”, and “The Power of Image” (Lublin, WSJ). Seek out professional help to get expert advice on action steps to take.

I firmly believe that all of us have an executive persona somewhere within. We must take action to bring this persona out into to the real world. Nowadays, companies contain less levels of management and our window of time to impress managers is small. One executive at Intel sums up taking advantage of this window by stating, “You have to have executive presence in ways that set you apart” (Lublin, WSJ).

by Mike McGovern



2 Responses to “Building Executive Presence”

  1. Leslie Wu March 25, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Mike, I found your post very enlightening. Simply being qualified for a position is just one aspect in actually holding that position; one’s charisma and personality can make the biggest difference.

  2. Andrew Skalman March 27, 2012 at 3:41 am #

    Thanks for sharing Mike! This will be very helpful in preparing for interviews in the future. I truly believe you have a great personality and it is fitting you have written about such a topic. Keep up the good work!

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