Here, I answer someone’s question about the importance of executive presence, and do so from the perspective of being successful with an organization as well as in her job search.
The question is, "How important is executive presence?"
I don't know if you're looking for an answer on a 1 to 10 scale or a 1 to 100 scale, and frankly, I think those are useless here. To understand the importance of executive presence, I think you need to understand what adds to your package.
Whether you are a job hunter or a leader in an organization, you have certain knowledge and experiences that you are attempting to communicate regularly. If you are talking about leadership within your organization, that communication is to the staff, to management, to the board, to the overall leadership of the organization. If you are job hunting, you may be speaking with the search committee. Thus, when you think of executive presence. You need to think in terms of the appearance of leadership and how that is conveyed.
Trust. The belief that you are who you claim to be. The ability to inspire confidence that you are the solution to a problem. That you can be trusted in that organization and cause people to rally around you. I don't want to make it seem like your organization. (I am going to focus on people within your firm, rather than doing a job search) , when they are hearing you speak, it is not just your words that are communicating. It is your presence, your bearing, how acutely you listen to them and how you reply back to them. All these things add up to executive presence.
If you are thinking of executive presence as being a tall white guy who has a barrel chest from that 1950's model in America of what a business guy looked like, age 55 to 65 years old with silver hair that is impeccably coiffed, wearing a suit with a handkerchief in its pocket, a great tie… That's no longer the image of executive presence. Yes, there is a physical manner that you need to carry yourself with but that reflects a matter of confidence and self assurance more than anything.
After all, Mark Zuckerberg… Would you ever claimed that he has executive presence? Not at 1st blush, but as you listen to him more. His leadership comes through. That's what firms look for.
Are you a leader? Are you someone that people follow? Can we trust you? Do you have a vision for your organization and its future, that people will rally behind? That's executive presence these days, not whether you are 6 foot 5 are not.
To me, executive presence is very important. For some organizations, it may be less pivotal. When push comes to shove, you have to be "the real deal." You have to be congruent with what you are saying and (I'm going to do a little bit of acting here). If you conduct yourself like Macbeth doing, "Out out damn spot," appearing nervous at everything you do, people are not going to be inspired by you, they are going to be concerned... They are going to see that your behavior is not congruent with the appearance of being a leader and speaking with certainty.
It is important. It is not the only thing that is important. It is part of communicating the congruent package of delivering the message of who you are and what you can bring to your firm.
From a job-search perspective, it is part of how you convince the next organization that they should hand over the keys of their car to you (Metaphorically speaking, of course) and trust you to leave their organization.
Again, a critical situation that needs to be addressed not simply with your words. There were a lot of people who know how to say the right thing, but they don't know how to express it in a way that makes people trust them.
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been coaching people to play their professional and personal games BIG for what seems like 100 years.
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