Have you ever wondered why we need executive presence? Why is it becoming a must-have skill set?
Executive presence is the ability to exude confidence, communicate clearly and eloquently, and command attention, which in return inspires others. The good news is that you can strengthen your leadership presence through focused practice.
The reality is that executive presence does not come easily and naturally to women. From a young age, our interactions and experiences shape our habits and self-image. We’ve been told what is expected of us and how we should act and behave. In a male-dominated leadership world, women struggle to balance being “nice” with a “can-do” attitude and continue to undervalue their potential.
To become strong, credible, and assertive leaders, women must reduce the confidence gap with men in the workplace and the entrepreneurial sphere and rewrite their personal stories. A lack of confidence and impostor syndrome are the key factors that hold many women back from taking charge of their lives, leading teams, and inspiring people to believe in their vision and mission.
In some ways, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where women underestimate their capabilities, end up paralyzed by their doubts and fears, and just accept their situation.
The face of leadership is changing. Many of the old ways of operating our businesses and communities are no longer working. The skills required to thrive in today’s world – such as empathy, communication, inclusiveness, and collaboration – come more naturally to women. Feminine Leadership is leading the way in the new economy, and women are called to stand in their power and grow their personal presence.
In this article, I share four proven ways to develop and boost your executive presence:
1. Trust Your Plan A
As women, we often worry about the impact our decisions have on those around us, in particular our families. Many of us don’t even entertain the idea of chasing our dream because it feels risky or selfish. And when some of us decide to follow our passion, we tend to put in place a plan B before we even start: falling back into an unfulfilling and safe job, giving up on our dream, or moving back to our old city or country.
Having a plan B is a good business strategy but not when we are launching a new business or going after that dream we have put on hold for years. Plan B can make us believe that we are doing the responsible thing by having a backup plan, but it can be detrimental to achieving our goals. The issue with this strategy is that we unconsciously entertain the option of failure and having a way out when things get hard or when the rejection becomes unbearable. Your plan B becomes your safety net and may hinder you from taking the necessary uncomfortable action to execute your plan A.
So the first step to developing your executive presence is not to have a plan B. Give yourself a timeframe where you dedicate yourself entirely and energetically to making your vision a reality. Give yourself one to two years to focus solely on launching your business, getting your dream job, getting your college or university degree, moving to your favorite city, hitting your investment goals, or meeting your ideal partner. Be intentional with your plan A by focusing on what you desire and trusting in your ability to create it.
2. Take Space and Command the Room
Women have been preconditioned to lean back and hide from the spotlight. Many developed behaviors where they lower their gaze or take less space in public, become self-conscious about how they dress, and some try to conceal their women’s features not to attract the wrong attention.
This accumulated behavior conveys the message that we are not confident and unsure about who we are. The 7-38-55 rule by the renowned behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian states that 7% of our communication is verbal, while non-verbal communications, including vocal tonality and facial expression, make up 38% and 55%, respectively. So, almost 93% of our communication is body language. How we hold ourselves expresses our trust and authority to others and provides an accurate view of who we are. It is vital to be intentional with our body language, especially in an era of remote work and virtual meetings.
Practice being conscious of your body language when interacting with people. Learn to take more space instead of hiding or leaning back. Embrace the power pose and its benefits by integrating it into your daily routine. This simple practice of adopting an expansive pose and taking more physical space for 2 minutes will boost your confidence while signaling to your body that you can take on more risks and go after opportunities, as supported by the research of Amy Cuddy.
So, the next time you are in a meeting or gathering, at work with colleagues or clients, or on a Zoom meeting, consciously own the space around you, be aware of your posture, use expansive open movements, make eye contact, and use an assertive voice. Study how professional speakers use their bodies and voice on stage to project an air of confidence, authority, and respect.
Practice in the mirror and with loved ones until it feels more natural for you to own and speak your truth, and then take that attitude out into the world.
3. Don’t Put Anyone or Anything on a Pedestal
The moment we put someone or something on a pedestal, we believe that the person is better than us or that it is out of our reach. We start to compare ourselves when we meet people who seem more accomplished, innovative, and successful than us, which in return diminishes our self-worth and self-confidence and compromises our journey of growth and success.
Remember that we are all humans who struggle with moments of self-doubt or even existential crisis. Even the most affluent person may still battle with self-worth and impostor syndrome. Every next level of our lives will demand a different version of ourselves so that we can handle more love, more success, and more tenacity.
Becoming self-aware of your inner story and limitations will help you nurture your self-worth and show up as a valuable friend or connection when engaging in a conversation with the people you admire. So go for it, dazzle them with all the qualities that make you unique.
This is also true when you place objects on a pedestal and internalize the belief that, for whatever reason, you don’t deserve certain things. The moment you want something beautiful and wish you could have it, you come from an energy of lack, convincing yourself that you cannot have it because you are not worthy of it.
Start to put your strengths forward, appreciate your life experiences, and nurture your worthiness. People will perceive you the same way you perceive yourself. So, keep raising your self-worth and visualize yourself living in that fantastic house, driving that awesome car, being friends with someone you admire or hitting that stretch goal. Trust that you have invaluable gifts, and it is your birthright to live in an energy of abundance.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Shine
Society has imposed many obligations on women who get stuck in an endless cycle of giving to the point that they forget how to go after what they want for fear of being labeled selfish or outshining others. Without realizing it, we build this tendency to ask for permission instead of support from our families, our partners, our managers, or even a higher authority before tackling anything important.
It is time to stand in our power and ask for support from a place of grace. As a leader, we learn to lead by example, and our people will appreciate our candor and how we show up and choose our own dreams first.
So give yourself permission to go after what you desire, guilt-free. The best practice I discovered is by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book “Magic.” She invites us to write ourselves a permission slip by setting a strong intention and commitment.
Write down in your journal:
I am (your name) and I give myself permission to
You are welcome to write yourself one or three permission slips. This is an effective way to empower yourself because only YOU – and no one else – can give yourself permission to do anything. So choose YOU first.
Executive presence is a secret weapon you can develop with time. By betting on yourself and your original plan, harnessing the power of non-verbal communication, celebrating your strengths and uniqueness without comparison, and choosing to empower yourself and your dreams first, you can begin to project more confidence and gravitas in your life and inspire others to do the same.
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