Today’s complex marketplace requires leaders who are at the top of their game and who consistently demonstrate leadership presence.

So, just what is leadership presence? Leadership presence (often called executive presence) reflects a broad array of personal qualities and behavioral capabilities that develop over time. The myth that you are “born with it” or it is innate is often proven wrong by individuals who continue to refine and adapt their style to various situations.

People with leadership presence carry themselves with self-confidence and do so in an authentic way. They know their value and what they can bring to the table. This creates an aura that surrounds certain people when they interact with others in business or social settings. Even though this type of person may not seek attention or recognition, others are frequently drawn to them.

The qualities that are frequently used to characterize leadership or executive presence are:

Communications Acumen: Advocating a shared vision and mission for the work unit; imparting core values; involving and engaging others in an on-going dialogue; inspiring members to want to follow their lead; listening to others; respect for the diversity of opinions and people.

Managerial Acumen: Directing and influencing the behavior and attitudes of others; empowering team members to take the initiative; leveraging available resources to develop skills of team members; leading development of business plans that maximize results consistent with vision and mission.

Technical Acumen: Being master of the technical skills essential to business success; practicing and coaching in the art of tactical and strategic thinking; always thinking ahead of the present moment to anticipate future needs.

Unimpeachable Character: Integrity unquestioned; consistency of what is said and what is practiced; holding themselves accountable to the same standards as members of the work unit; and consistently acting in an authentic and genuine manner.

Three observations seem appropriate to wrap up this broad overview of Leadership / Executive Presence.

First, while there may be certain qualities that characterize those with such presence, there is no one right way, nor is there one right formula for developing leadership / executive presence.

Second, and consistent with the previous observation, it is important to be oneself. Don’t try to demonstrate leadership presence the way someone else does; do what is right and most natural for you.

Lastly, don’t overlook the fact that, in the final analysis, leadership presence is not achieved by simply demonstrating a handful of qualities as noted above. Rather, it is a blending of cognitive and behavioral competencies that reflect one’s true heart, character, and passion for inspiring success in the organization more so than for achieving recognition for oneself.

Wendy L. Heckelman, Ph.D.

Dr. Wendy Heckelman, president and founder of WLH Consulting, Inc. has over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 100 industry clients. These include pharmaceutical, biotech, health care, animal health medicines, and consumer products, as well as international non-profit organizations and growing entrepreneurial companies.

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