Executive Presence

Leadership, Growth, Career

Understanding Executive Presence and making it work for you. Increase your leadership and career potential through targeted training and expert consulting. 


In Candor Part 1, we discussed what to be candid about. We certainly can't tell everything to everyone all of the time, so where do we draw the line?

In this tip, we help you understand how to go about being candid. How can we improve our ability to discuss difficult things without appearing defensive, alienating, or confrontational?

First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that candidly talking with others who are questioning our judgment, capability, or results can be uncomfortable. When we must do this, and there are certainly times when we must, we often become defensive or confrontational. That’s because we feel threatened and a little out of control. We want others to think highly of us, regardless of what we might have done. 

At the same time, we often feel equally uncomfortable candidly talking with others about their shortcomings and what they might do to fix them. When we have these discussions, which are usually too infrequent, our tendency is to become indirect and evasive. That’s because we don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, at least face-to-face, or open the door to an emotional encounter.

Although these two situations may seem unrelated, they are not. Both require emotional intelligence as the foundation for candidly and constructively engaging with others. 

Emotional Intelligence and Executive Presence

The emotional intelligence in good executive presence provides a foundation for self-management that enables us to be candid without being defensive or confrontational. Here are some of its key characteristics.

  • Make your agenda secondary to theirs. If you don’t, you will be emotionally predisposed to listen poorly, which creates rebuttals and answers questions before the point is made. This makes difficult situations worse and makes you look defensive and contentious, all of which are associated with poor executive presence. 
  • Be patient.  If you have trouble with this, you need to work on it. You cannot candidly engage with others if you make them feel like you are too busy. Being impatient with them is a clear statement that you and your agenda come first (even though you may try to couch it in more noble terms). And since you can’t hide this emotion, you must learn to control it. If you don’t, it will come out in a multitude of ways. When it does, you will appear self-centered and egotistical, more interested in yourself than in others.
  • Approach the interaction with a positive attitude and an open mind. Keep your emotions away from what you’re trying to accomplish. Letting your own insecurities interfere can cause you to build emotional walls. Assuming the intentions of others are good, even if you suspect they’re not, can help you avoid building these walls. A good motto to live by here is “always take the high road.” Although it may hurt in the short run, it almost always feels good in the end.
  • Have a clear and realistic result for what you want from the interaction. Think through the situation in practical and creative ways. Often there are many more acceptable outcomes, or paths to an outcome, than you might have initially thought. Others can help with this if you let them, which means being open and receptive.
  • Be completely honest with yourself about your emotions. Identify the things that trigger negative emotional responses in you, then rigorously examine why. You will usually find it has more to do with you than with what was done to you. That’s because it’s all about how you understand and manage yourself. If you want to increase your capacity to engage in difficult conversations without being defensive, confrontational, or alienating, better self-understanding and self-management are the keys.