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Stand out in your workplace by cultivating your ‘executive presence’

Help yourself stand out in the workplace by cultivating executive presence.
Help yourself stand out in the workplace by cultivating executive presence. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Successful leaders project an image of strength and confidence. When entering a room, these people command attention. Their self-assurance can be contagious, making it easy for others to accept their direction and their judgment. Their aura can both inspire and comfort those in their orbit. This ability seems to come naturally to some. However, others may struggle to convey such gravitas.

What can you do to cultivate what is sometimes called “executive presence?”


▪  Even in a casual work environment, take care how you dress and groom yourself. A sloppy personal appearance sends the message that you don’t care.

▪  Pay attention to your body language. Stand up straight. Square your shoulders.

▪  Without encroaching on others, claim your appropriate space. If you sit, clear your place at the table and put appropriate materials in front of you.


▪  Eliminate distractions during meetings. Shut the door, ignore pings and rings and shut off your phone and set it aside.

▪  Sit so you can’t hear or see your computer screen.

▪  With a large group, sweep the room with your eyes as you enter and nod or smile to recognize others. In a small group, position yourself so you can see everyone.

▪  Pause and wait for quiet before you speak.

▪  When someone else speaks, avoid the urge to prepare your next remark. Instead, make eye contact with the speaker and listen actively.

▪  Resist the temptation to check the time.

Manage the conversation

▪  Choose your words carefully. When possible, use terms and phrases others use to show that you have heard them.

▪  Use transition words or phrases, such as “Now, let’s...” “Our next item...” “Thanks for your input...”) to signal when it is time to move on.

▪  Recap decisions and assignments made and summarize the discussion to ensure closure.

We are constantly bombarded with disruptions that can undermine our ability to connect and lead. Though it might not come to you naturally or easily, you can learn to project a strong and confident image.

The keys to executive presence are actually pretty simple: Be prepared. Be present.

Linda Clark-Santos, is a consultant and executive coach.