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  • Writer's pictureYasmine El-Baz

Stereotypes About the "Executive Presence" that Must Come to an End.

It's interesting how some concepts rise from a random point of view, and years pass only to figure out that this opinion has become a fact people live upon. And that's something we witness in nearly everything, and the topic of acquiring "Executive presence" is one of them. I've been coaching hundreds of executives, high-profile leaders, and senior professionals, paving their way toward higher positions based on their experience, executive speaking, and presence, and the number of misperceptions about what they need to do and, most importantly, what NOT to do is countless. It is enough to ask ten people from the readers of my article here to imagine a leader with executive presence and draw that leader. I don't want to exaggerate, but they will probably have the same drawing. We need to consider executive presence as an impact more than an element to acquire. Instead of asking, "What is an executive presence?" We should ask, "What is the influence of having an executive presence?" The answer to the 2nd question will give us better insights into what executive presence is really about. There're many definitions for executive presence, but the one I believe in the most is: Executive Presence in public speaking is the ability to reflect your leadership style powerfully and communicate in an influential way that draws people to you and leaves a strong, lasting impression. Now let's discuss the common stereotypes about how people with executive presence look like. Because simply knowing this will make your journey toward developing it much more manageable. 1) They know it all. Great leaders shouldn't be expected to "know-it-all." As a matter of fact, successful executives have moments where they'll say something like, "I don't know enough about this", or "I'd rather delay stating my opinion when facts are solid in my hands." The fact that a leader is willing to admit what they don't know is a powerful signal that they should be listened to when they speak. 2) They smile less. I cannot count the times my clients share with me how they have been told to smile less to give a more powerful impression! Now try to think of any successful leader in business or politics and guess what they do SMILE. Smiling is a comfortable gesture that shows you're open to others and, most importantly, that you're comfortable and confident to do so. Executive presence is also about how you make other people feel around you, and there's a difference between respecting a person and being intimated by them. 3) They take up more space when they are seated. Now this is funny advice. How would a professional with a basic understanding of business etiquette or formal protocol apply that advice? Suppose you’ve dealt with officials or high-profile celebrities, or spokespersons. In that case, you must have heard of the word "respecting proximities", and in public speaking, we say that when we are standing: Too many gestures outside your body are dramatic gestures that might confuse the audience and are only suitable if you're an actor in a theatre. Also, using more expansive space while seated is a vulgar way to show confidence. Don't have a closed body posture, but don't let your body cross the boundaries of the spaces around other people. Draw a small circle around your body; that's the space you need to use. 4) They show no emotions. Emotions have been a scary subject for many leaders. The first thing they were taught was to hide their emotions and only show sharpness in their facial expressions and their voice. Unfortunately, the issue here is that emotions have been associated with vulnerability. Communication in business and even politics is all about emotions. Yes! You heard me. Addressing a change/crisis = Emotions Making a new company acquisition = Emotions Asking for a fund = Emotions Presenting milestones = Emotions As per all persuasion formulas, emotions are always the king to move your audience. Don't be afraid to show emotions when needed; we are HUMAN leaders, not robots unless you're telling me that you'd prefer an AI executive rather than an actual human in your boardroom. 5) They avoid personal experiences. In public speaking, the true skill is about turning boring numbers, data, news, or solid pieces of information into an exciting topic so your audience can discuss and remember. And one of the things that drives people into any content is stories, not just business stories but personal ones as well. If you want to give us the impression that you're a leader with a vision, for example, that needs to be reflected in both your personal and professional lives. If you are something, you are that thing in all your life aspects. Personal experiences can support your credibility and break the unnecessary rigidity of any talk. But of course, you'll need to avoid talking too much about yourself or adding irrelevant stories. One of the things I enjoy doing with my executive clients is helping them reach that customized version of a great speaker with an executive presence that's extracted from their characters and experiences. It's never one coat that fits all. That discovery journey helps them understand that they don't need to be somebody else so they can own that presence; it's all within themselves. #JE_Speakup #Public_Speaking #Coaching #Executive_Speech #PublicSpeaking #leadership #executivepresence #executivecoaching


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