5 topics to keep in mind as you work on enhancing your ‘Executive Presence’

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We often look at someone inspirational and wonder what sets them apart - the reason behind their ‘it’ factor. From Sachin Tendulkar, Steve Jobs to most world leaders, what’s common between all of them is their personal presence, leadership presence or the more common ‘it’ factor reflected in abundance.

In her book Executive Presence - The POISE Formula for Leadership, published by HarperCollins, Shital Kakkar Mehra sums up this ‘it’ factor as a person’s executive presence. When leaders communicate ‘I am capable and confident’ without having to say it directly, it is them showcasing their executive presence. And Shital has experienced this first hand. Over the last few years, she has received several requests from business leaders to help their star performers improve their executive presence. While working with many leaders and researching on this book, Shital heard various terms used to describe ‘executive presence’ – from aura to ‘You know it when you see it’.

Her research, spanning two decades, led her to coining the term POISE to analyse and maintain executive presence.

P: Physical presence

O: Online presence

I: Influencer presence

S: Stage presence

E: Engagement presence

Each of these five points are extremely critical for future leaders, and they all contribute to a person’s overall executive presence.

Creating a mark with physical presence

Clothes are the defining elements that truly make a first impression a hit or miss. Shital mentions how most people make millisecond judgements just by looking at someone. In such cases, dressing up plays a key role while interviewing for a job, meeting leaders or trying to secure the next round of funding for a venture - it is almost like a person’s visual resume. Shital also points out that attire isn’t just about how the world perceives you, but they also affect how a person sees themselves. As per various researches, clothing can alter the way a person behaves. This is why employees are more focused when asked to wear formal clothes and more laid back when in casuals.

Another key factor is body language. It helps convey interest, develop positive business relationships, influences and motivates team members, improves productivity and helps present ideas with more confidence. Our bodies are routinely sending out signals when we are nervous or anxious. But there are various tricks the book mentions which will help the reader be more in charge - from firm handshakes to engaging with the eyes to using powerful gestures, among others.

Growing with an online presence

Personal branding is extremely important in today’s world of social media, according to Shital. And this requires consistent work. A true leader knows how to put forth his ideologies in an effective manner, while recognising and appreciating others. That’s how leaders build their own personal brand. Showcasing these skills across social media platforms helps elevate a person’s social standing and also makes them network and follow like-minded people.

While reaching out and networking is appreciated, knowing what social media platform is for is also critical. For example, bosses and clients should be connected only on platforms like LinkedIn, whereas friends should be on Facebook and Instagram.

Effective communication with influencer presence

One of the first rules of effective communication is learning to say ‘no’. We come across requests every day, but how we confidently tackle them is essential. The desire to be viewed as ‘nice’ or an eager player in the team often puts us in a spot. First one must ask themselves if the task is unreasonable, and if it is, then they must proceed to say ‘no’ calmly. It is important to say ‘no’ in person, while explaining your reasons with clarity and honesty.

Along with this, showing humility and respect also does wonders for communication. This can be achieved by valuing multiple opinions, respecting team members by allowing them to display their strengths, showing their own vulnerabilities, being generous with praise and honest with feedback, among others. As leaders, it is also important to stand up for what you believe in and speak up when needed.

Leveraging your stage presence

Executives who have made a name for themselves often find themselves hosting multiple meetings. So public speaking is one of the lessons every leader needs to learn along the way. Starting with an engaging story or personal anecdote is an effective way to interest listeners. Leaders who draw inspiration from their fears and vulnerabilities are great communicators. Some of the things that should be kept in mind while sharing a story is that every story needs a setting, a protagonist, suspense, a powerful end and a message. To nail a speech, leaders need discipline and imagination.

While working on stage presence, people need to note that their body language and voice both can make or break the impact. Apart from these, talking to the audience is also a point to be remembered. Maintaining eye contact with them and keeping the tone conversational can go a long way. Because, as Shital says, a good speech is one that is heard and understood by everyone.

Building relationships with engagement presence

What doesn’t good conversation lead to? It helps you build great connections, rapport and buy-ins from stakeholders. Putting your point across clearly helps across various levels. Shital points out that small talk is one of the most important parts of communication for a young leader. It not only engages people, but also inspires them to make a genuine connection with you. Shital has further listed out the various topics leaders can turn to, to ensure that the conversation never has a lull. Further, she also explains how leaders can nail that elevator pitch. From drafting to editing it, to practising it, the book has some critical tips that will surely help leaders grab eyeballs.

Maintaining decorum and still showcasing your executive presence is important. Shital explains how employees can speak to CXOs and deal with board meetings and even conflicts. There are various ways to show dissent, including letting the data speak, influencing the influencer and taking ownership when necessary.

Another critical part of the book has to be about working in virtual teams - the new reality. How do you make a mark in a virtual meeting? Or through text and emails? The answers to all of these lies in the book. Even though we are at home, maintaining punctuality and eye contact through video conferencing is recommended.

Don’t miss the in-depth tricks and rules the book mentions in each of the five steps, along with interesting anecdotes from leaders. Shital Kakkar Mehra’s Executive Presence is not just insightful, but also relatable and will truly help you navigate the business and corporate world with a lot more clarity.

TITLE: Executive Presence - The POISE Formula for Leadership

AUTHOR: Shital Kakkar Mehra

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins India

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