In her work as an executive coach, Brooke Vuckovic says there’s one topic that comes up with almost every single client: executive presence.
But, Vuckovic says, even though we so often talk about wanting to improve our executive presence, “we don’t quite know what it means when we’re pressed to define it.”
So Vuckovic, a clinical professor of leadership at Kellogg, created a rough formula for executive presence:
She stresses that while these underlying components are universal, a strong or effective executive presence might look different from one individual, situation, or culture to the next. So she encourages people to think of the pieces that make up these components as dials on an instrument panel. Depending on the circumstance, you can turn some dials up and others down.
“This is not a template, one-size-fits-all formula,” she says. “It is a flexible formula that you can tailor to your needs and the needs of your organization and your team at a particular time.”
During a recent The Insightful Leader Live Webinar, Vuckovic broke down each of the formula’s components and explained how leaders can improve on each dimension. Below is a sampling of her advice.
Each component of executive presence is composed of a number of factors.
With credibility, one piece is simply expertise in your role. “Especially early on in your career, intellectual horsepower is essential,” she says.
Along with expertise, credibility can be boosted with preparation and by exhibiting integrity.
But, of course, you need to be able to communicate your credibility to others. So once you’re sure you know your stuff, how can you work to better convey that? Vuckovic offers a few tips.
For starters, avoid a monotone delivery. (For those who struggle with this, she suggests practicing inflection by reading children’s books aloud.) Try not to talk too fast, which can convey nervousness or even the desire to “pull a fast one” on an audience. And do your best to avoid using too many filler words—“er,” “um,” “uh”—which can be distracting from the message you’re trying to convey.
Additionally, make sure you aren’t fidgeting or using “props” in a meeting. This means no knee bouncing, no pen clicking, no beard stroking or hair twirling, and definitely no phone checking. “The question I like to ask is, ‘what are you in relationship with more than the people in the room?’”
Overall, Vuckovic says, “credibility has the largest number of dials in the instrument panel, and they are the easiest for you to turn and adjust.”
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