Working definitions of Executive Presence, Leadership Presence, Presence, & The New Executive Presence

What is Executive Presence? At times it seems like defining it is harder than explaining quantum physics on the back of a postcard.

We’ve developed a set of working definitions. Here’s what we mean by “Presence”, “Leadership Presence”, “Executive Presence”, and “The New Executive Presence.”

Presencewhat people unconsciously decide about who they think you are in relation to them.

  • There’s a survival, fight-or-flight part of our brain that goes to work in the first few seconds of every interaction. It makes up a story about the other person. It decides who that person is in relation to themselves.
  • That “lizard” brain doesn’t use language. It interprets body language, facial expression, vocal patterns. And it does that before the frontal cortex interprets words.
  • The brain reads presence faster than it understands words. And it skips over gender, ethnicity, size, age, clothing, etc. while it decides who you are in relation to itself. (This is why we believe presence helps to circumvent unconscious bias.)

So, everyone has presence. The question is, what story does your presence tell?

Leadership Presence — others willingly choose you as a leader.

  • Evolutionarily speaking, our survival depends on our ability to choose strong, safe leaders.
  • If a leader of primitive humans didn’t know what they were doing, or didn’t care about their people, they wouldn’t survive. Part of our brain remembers that.
  • Leaders who signal both a high level of competence and a high level of approachability attract followers because we’re pre-wired to do that.

“I know what I’m doing and you’re in good hands with me.”

Executive Presence — you belong with the highest ranking leaders.

  • Executive Presence is an advanced version of Leadership Presence. Something like a black belt in martial arts.
  • It happens when you’ve not only mastered the fundamental skills of Leadership Presence, you’ve also replaced any unique “tells” (like furrowed brow or dropped chin) with more effective behaviors.

“I can skillfully handle the most challenging situations.” 

The New Executive Presence — from entry level to the highest ranks, others have full confidence in you, and are comfortable working with you

  • The New Executive Presence is the most evolved version of leadership presence.
  • It’s a relaxed confidence that’s inclusive & engages others. It’s a leader who acts in alignment with their principles, who’s comfortable in their own skin.

“Throughout the organization, others feel confident in, and comfortable with me as a leader.”