Susan asks: I’ve been told I need to develop “executive presence”.  What does that really mean and how do I go about it?

Edie Heilman, Executive Leadership Coach responded:

Quite often the missing piece in successful leadership is the nebulous “executive presence”.  A very bright person with impressive technical accomplishments can often get stalled professionally if there’s the perception that s/he isn’t looking or sounding like other leaders at the company.

A great place to start is to look at the leadership team and those who are advancing and ask yourself “what differentiates them besides their work record?”  Most successful business people have strong social intelligence skills.  These skills include self-confidence, great communications skills, the ability to read others and empathy.  Even these days, there can also be expectations about attire.  Once you get clear about the leader profile at your company, you can determine how to further develop your own authentic “presence.” Engage your boss (or whomever gave you the feedback) in the process by telling them about the specific things you are trying and ask for on-going observations. Experiment, get feedback, try again!

To learn more, explore Daniel Goleman’s writings, like the classic HBR article “Social Intelligence Biology”.  I also recommend Executive Presence by Harrison Monarth.