You want executives in your company to see you as a peer. This perception gives you enormous clout and credibility and is especially useful if you’re not yet an executive.
To develop this kind of relationship with others, you must develop executive presence or gravitas. When you develop this ability, the room quiets down when you speak, and the executives in the room take notes on what you’re saying. THAT is executive presence.
Most people misunderstand executive presence. They incorrectly perceive it as a way of acting — being bold, supremely confident, perhaps a little arrogant.
That does not work.
If you boldly, supremely confidently, and a little arrogantly declare that 2 + 2 = 6, you’ve simply proven publicly that you’re stupid.
Executive presence is different. It’s subtle, much more nuanced.
You don’t need to be an extrovert to develop executive presence. In fact, when I look at my own career, most of the non-executive professionals I’ve known that have executive presence are introverts.
When you have low social standing in an organization, the weight of what you say will not be amplified by your status, job title, reputation or position.
If you act more powerfully than your role implies, and your ideas aren’t at an executive-caliber, you simply look like a little boy trying to wear big boy pants and not doing such a good job at it (or a little girl trying to wear big girl pants).
Executive presence is NOT an act. It is a way of thinking and communicating.
It’s about what you say and how you say it.
Here’s the completely counter-intuitive secret to developing executive presence.
It’s the foundation of determining what you say.
It profoundly influences how you say it.
What is this secret?
It is the ability to LISTEN.
Think about it.
If you’re a 23-year-old kid giving advice to a 60-year-old executive, there’s nothing you can wear or no way you can behave or act, that will cause the seasoned executive to take you seriously — except what you say.
If what you say is brilliant, the executive will listen.
If what you say is stupid, the executive will realize she shouldn’t have invited you to the meeting.
The only way to have better ideas to share is by starting with the raw ingredients. The core ingredients are obtained by listening.
An executive, and someone with executive presence, invents very few ideas. What she does do is repackage ideas, show ideas from a different perspective, or identify an important issue related to other people’s ideas.
The key to all of this is to listen — to listen more often and from more people than your peers do. That’s the foundation.
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