Creating Authentic Executive Presence

A common coaching objective for executive clients is to exude greater executive presence while also being authentic. Many successful leaders are known for having exceptional executive presence. When you see this quality, you just know. However, when you don’t see it—you also know.

The path to executive presence can be challenging due to the following factors:

  • The workplace is constantly changing. It is difficult to develop a style that feels right and suits the organization’s changing needs. Leaders want to stick with what feels comfortable.
  • People evolve through their careers. Leaders change and grow. There isn’t always one true self.
  • Social media demands that we share thoughts and feelings. Leaders may feel this is risky and unrealistic.
  • Radical changes are happening in work styles. Leaders want to improve and learn using a sense of self, but extreme change can rattle a rigid self-concept.
  • The difference in cultural norms is being addressed now more than ever before in the workplace.
  • Selling ideas and self takes leaders out of their comfort zone.

In his article for, Executive Presence: What It Is and 4 Steps to Develop It, performance psychologist Dr. Stephen Long challenges us to consider that authenticity and executive presence are linked. Leaders set the direction with their heads and then engage their employees and colleagues with their hearts. Executive presence is a result of the head and heart working together to their maximum capabilities.

Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic and author of the book True North: Develop Your Authentic Leadership, shares a similar message:

“Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership. When you follow your internal compass, your leadership will be authentic, and people will naturally want to associate with you. Although others may guide or influence you, your truth is derived from your life story and only you can determine what it should be.”

George’s Authenticity Model focuses on the different qualities an authentic leader has or can develop. There are five dimensions: Purpose, Values, Relationships, Self-Discipline, and Heart.

  • Purpose—authentic leaders know who they are and where they are going. Passion shines through all that they do.
  • Values—authentic leaders know their values and examine them frequently. Their actions align with espoused values.
  • Relationships—authentic leaders build solid relationships and make heart connections. They share their personal experiences and listen actively.
  • Self-Discipline—authentic leaders remain focused and cool even under pressure. They possess a great deal of self-awareness such as managing their emotions; knowing personal triggers; showing empathy.
  • Heart—authentic leaders are sensitive to the needs of others and are willing to help.

Our true authentic self is not hiding under a burning bush waiting for us to find it. It already exists within each of us. If we stray too far from our internal compass, our authenticity quotient diminishes.

Here are a few suggestions for leaders who wish to acquire leadership presence.

  • Build a strong foundation throughout your career. Develop experiences that point to your areas of strength and passion.
  • Be mindful that presence develops gradually throughout a career.
  • Establish trust. Be consistent and fair to all. This takes time to develop.
  • Manage self. Create awareness about personal emotions and skill levels, and build resilience.
  • Establish meaningful relationships. Display an attitude of caring and willingness to share personal experiences.
  • Do the right thing in an authentic manner.

Executive presence and authenticity are intertwined. No cutting of corners, no looking away from values. Presence is knowing who you are, what you stand for, and what you want to be known for. In other words, it is having absolute clarity about your brand and never wavering.

About the Author

Patricia Sauer is a coaching solutions partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Contact Blanchard Coaching Services to learn more about developing your authentic executive presence. Blanchard’s 250 coaches have worked with over 16,000 executives to develop the skills they need to succeed in a changing work environment.

Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

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