The Nine Dimensions of Executive Presence
The path to executive presence begins with understanding the behaviors that people look at when they make judgments about you. How do they describe you, and what are the specific behaviors you can work on that will make a difference in your leadership persona?
We wanted to know the answers to these questions, so we did our homework. And our research revealed nine specific behavioral dimensions that make the difference. We call them the Nine Dimensions of Executive Presence.
When someone is making judgments about our executive presence, we can now look to the Nine Dimensions as a frame of reference, since the Nine Dimensions move us from the intuitive “I know it when I see it” to the specific behaviors that we can identify, measure, and work on.
Just as important, the Nine Dimensions show us that improving our executive presence is not about changing who we are. It’s about the little “tweaks” we can make and skills we can develop over time. Before long, those small behavioral changes can add up to real transformation in the way others evaluate and relate to us.
Scroll down for a review of each Dimension, with a definition, general characteristics, and some typical elements of expression.
Do we stand up straight, look people in the eye, and shake their hand firmly when we meet them? Do our clothes flatter and contribute to a powerful persona. Do we speak up and project commitment and confidence when talking with others?
Expressing focus and drive that show we are committed to what we say and do.
Characteristics: We must feel passion; it cannot be faked. To be truly successful we must bring passion to our work and embrace what really turns us on about our business.
Expression: Communicating with energy and excitement; speaking with animation and intensity. Ownership and a striving for perfection that leaves little to chance.
Projecting sophistication and composure that show we are comfort- able in our surroundings and able to gracefully handle adversity.
Characteristics: Requires emotional maturity and self-control. We must be patient, thoughtful listeners and composed under pressure. Requires a sophistication born of experience, so we are comfortable acting on an ever-larger stage. We must anticipate our developmental needs and find the resources to satisfy them.
Expression: Rhythmic, unhurried speech and relaxed vocal inflection. Speaking clearly, confidently, conversationally, and concisely—never fast or mechanical ly. Relaxed eye contact, good posture, and appropriate grooming and dress. Acting as equal partners in social encounters, comfortable with roles.
Displaying optimism and assurance that convinces others we have the personal resources and resolve to lead.
Characteristics: Founded on good self-esteem: feeling good about ourselves in relationships, achievements, purpose, and potential, even when we’re not perfect—or perfectly comfortable.
Expression: Eye contact, good posture, and a good handshake. Speaking with short direct statements, good vocal inflection, moderate vocal volume, with no unnecessary words or word-like sounds (umm, ah, etc.).
About Our Messages
How smart and strategic are we? Do we have a larger vision, and can we lay it out clearly and persuasively? Are we crisp and to the point when we speak? Are we honest with others and open to their ideas?
Being honest and engaging with the world as it is, even when it is not as we would like it to be.
Characteristics: Confidence in our ability to deal with what we are faced with, regardless of how difficult. The fortitude to face criticism and the consequences of admitting mistakes when we make them. We must want to do the right thing.
Expression: Reasoned analysis, a measured pace of speech, thoughtful inflection, and pausing. Always respectful. Sensitively communicated, taking into account the anxiety unpleasant truths may create in others.
Creating and delivering messages others see as crisp and compelling.
Characteristics: Confidence in our ability to speak to the people we are with and feeling that we are equal to them. Requires patience, taking the time to understand the needs and interests of our audience, and crafting practiced messages that address those needs.
Expression: Straightforward narratives that connect with audience interests and express intent with minimal detail and words. Requires rhythmic delivery pace, good vocal inflection, and supporting gestures. Never speak fast. Connect with audiences by speaking with them, not to them.
Projecting a willingness to consider other viewpoints without prejudging them.
Characteristics: Like candor and clarity, requires self-confidence, which allows us to openly consider differing views without feeling threatened or defensive. Disagreements are not zero-sum games we must win at any cost.
Expression: Patient listening and appropriate body language, such as nodding acknowledgment and focusing eyes on the speaker without distraction. Willingness to share information in developing collaborative solutions, with an easy give-and-take in getting information on the table and figuring out how best to use it.
About Our Relationships
Are we are accessible to others and willing to listen? Are we concerned with their agendas or only with our own? Are we easy to approach and be with or do people feel uncomfortable around us? Do we keep our commitments and consider others when making requests?
Expressing conviction in what we say and do.
Characteristics: Emotional awareness is important to sincerity because to be sincere we must be in touch with our emotions. We must make the connection between what we are feeling and what we are saying. Sincerity requires focused, undivided attention and empathy, understanding how others are feeling and taking those feelings into account.
Expression: Conveyed gently, both physically and vocally, through nuanced expression that helps establish trust in relationships. Soft eye contact with eye inflection and slight periodic up and down head movement signal affirmation or understanding. Speak slowly with inflection and pausing; always listening.
Showing interest in others and concern for them.
Characteristics: Supported by empathy, patience, and caring. We must be able to stand in the shoes of others, be patient with them without being distracted by our own agenda, and care about their aspirations, disappointments, goals, and interests.
Expression: Expressed gently when conversing, using moderated gestures, soft eye contact, undivided attention, and empathetic listening. Also expressed by being responsive and by keeping commitments.
Being physically and emotionally accessible.
Characteristics: Marked by supportiveness, humor, and humility, working together to facilitate quick and easy emotional connections. To be warm and approachable we must also be patient, take time to recognize others, and solicit their opinions and ideas.
Expression: Relaxed physical expression, with open positions, inflective eye contact, and unhurried movements. Initiating dialog is key, especially as leaders. More than anything, a smile conveys warmth and approachability.