The Traits You Need to Build Executive Presence…

Aspiring leaders have long been told they need “executive presence” to be considered for senior roles. Traditionally this has boiled down to three attributes: gravitas, strong communication skills, and the “right” appearance. But what does that look like today? A recent survey sheds light on how our views have changed over the last decade.  

Gravitas. To project gravitas, you need to seem confident, decisive, and have a clear vision. But an increasingly important element of gravitas is being inclusive—not only hiring people with diverse backgrounds and giving everyone a fair shot at climbing the ladder but also ensuring that all your employees feel respected and supported.

Strong communication skills. Communicating well has always entailed speaking and writing clearly and the ability to command the room. In the new world of work, commanding Zoom (or other forms of virtual meetings) is just as important. To communicate with executive presence today also requires listening and learning—rather than communicating with force.

The “right” appearance. Appearance is the least-important attribute, but it’s the one that has changed the most from 2012 to 2022. Authenticity, which didn’t register with survey respondents 10 years ago, is newly prized. To be seen as leadership material today, executives are expected to reveal who they fundamentally are—not mimic some dated, idealized model of what it means to be “professional.”

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