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Executive presence:
what it is and why you need more of it

There’s some myth around executive presence. But, in fact, it’s pretty straight forward. Executive presence is the ability that you have to inspire confidence in the people around you. As a result people are willing to follow you, prepared to listen to your ideas or give you a seat at the table where the decisions are made. The good news is, executive presence is not a trait. It’s a skill we can learn.


The mistake we often make is that we forget that when we are evolving in our career, our technical skills become less and less important, while our behavioral skills become more important. At the top, everyone assumes that you know what you’re talking about. It’s how you behave that makes the biggest difference.


Here are five suggestions if you want to start to improve your executive presence.

Perception = Reality

Perception = Reality. How people perceive you is what really matters. Not how you think people perceive you. Unfortunately, there often is a big difference between reality and perception. Make sure you really understand how you are perceived. A 360 degree assessment can be a useful tool to get that deep understanding.


Make sure that the way you look is in sync with the role you have. Make sure that your appearance does not distract people. Ask for feedback from people around you if you want to fine tune your appearance.


So much comes down to communication. Train yourself to write things down. Learn to communicate your messages short and sweet, both in writing and on video. Video will play a much bigger role in the next several years. The sooner you get comfortable with this medium, the more positive impact it will have on your executive presence.

Communication 2

Listen! Communication is not only about sending messages. Become a great listener too. Ask questions and turn this into a good habit. Dive deep and be curious. Delay your judgement and don’t fall into the trap of making statements all the time. The better you understand the perspective of others, the more impact you can make.


Craft your vision. If you want others to follow you, you need to know where you are going. Invest in better understanding the big trends in our society. Invest to understand your industry and develop the idea of where you want to go. Sharpen your thinking and keep your own saw sharp!


Executive presence is not a mystical fluffy idea. It’s a crucial skill that you need to learn to move ahead and to earn your seat at the table.


Two books I’d like to recommend for a deeper dive: Why Should the Boss listen to you? By Jim Lukaszewski. The other book to read is: The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane.


Hope this inspires.


Paul Donkers

Paul P.J. Donkers is a sought-after global business coach and management consultant. More about his work and projects can be found via and via

Paul and his partners work since decades with leaders to assist them create more value. If you want to have a confidential conversation, just reach out to us via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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