Executive Presence: A Case Study


I last wrote about the qualities required to project Executive Presence. Now, let’s look at someone who demonstrates it.

Last week I observed a recently hired senior leader participate in an all-hands meeting with her new organization’s team – about 120 people from all over the country. How did she display executive presence?

She did not begin with: “Thank you very much. It’s so good to be able to be here with all of you and I am looking forward to meeting each of you” (yawn).

Instead, she started with a short story about arriving at a recent Leadership Conference as a newbie. It was personal and it drew her audience in. She began her story with a clear, strong voice, and direct eye contact (helping to ensure she had the audience’s attention). She then talked about what she learned at the leadership conference (everybody wants to know what goes on at those conferences). She also included people in the audience by name – not easy to do since she didn’t know many of these people well. But she made the effort and that effort was clear to everyone.

She ended her presentation telling one more story. It was about her transition into her new company. Again, it was a personal story. She recounted how she had told her husband about the Leadership Conference and he asked her: Do you realize what you just did? You started referring to your colleagues as “we,” not “them.” And then she gave the audience big smile. It was a simple but powerful statement.

So, what did she accomplish with her 10 minutes in front of her new colleagues?

  • She talked about something they would be interested in learning

  • She communicated confidently and clearly and engaged them by name

  • She connected with them by sharing personal, but relevant stories

That is executive presence.