6 Key Ways To Project Executive Presence

Chaz Wolfson


You’re presenting on Zoom and your manager’s manager happens to show up in the meeting. Are you projecting executive presence? Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. Regardless, developing executive presence is critical for moving up in leadership within your organization. 

But first, what is executive presence? 

Simply put, it’s your body language and voice – the way you stand, move, gesture and speak that makes others think of you as an executive.

Some professionals have a natural ability to project executive presence and some might require training and coaching.

In this article, you’ll learn 6 key strategies for developing executive presence so that you can show up like a leader in person or virtually. 

#1: Model Others Who Have Executive Presence


Executive presence is an abstract term. If you want to make it tangible you have to see it in action.

The best way to see this demonstrated is to observe it in others

Steps To Model Others:

1. Write a list of people who you think have executive presence. 

2. Then you can either look them up on Youtube search for their writings, meet with them (in-person or virtual), or follow them on social media

3.Emulate them. 

Sooner or later, you’ll notice that it will start rubbing off on you, just by exposing yourself to those who possess executive presence. 

This is how kids learn. We abandon this method as we grow older, but we don’t have to. I remember the countless hours I watched Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and I know for a fact that it helped me a lot.

#2: Fake It Till You Make It

Now that you’ve started modeling someone else you might notice it feels a little awkward. Don’t worry, that’s normal — but in order to start showing up with executive presence, you need to start acting like you already have it. In other words, fake it till you make it. 

It won’t happen overnight, but you do need to start somewhere. Eventually with enough practice these behaviors will become a part of your own self expression and you’ll start projecting executive presence naturally. 

It might sound silly, but it works. In fact, there’s a common prescription in psychotherapy called acting “as if”, based on the idea that if you behave like somebody you want to become, it will become a reality. So fake it till you make it. And who knows? Maybe in time you’ll be the one whose behaviors someone else is modeling.

#3: Work On Your Appearance

executive-dress-body language

Take a look inside your wardrobe and ask yourself, “Is this something an executive would wear?”

If the answer is no, you might want to start working on your appearance. This doesn’t mean showing up to work everyday in a tailored suit (unless of course your workplace calls for it), but you do at least want to match the level of dress given by the position above your own.

I recommend starting with one article of clothing at a time – if you go all out all at once you might start to experience imposter syndrome. Like everything else in this article, take it slow. 

#4: Build Your Communication Muscle


Now that you look and behave in a way that projects executive presence, it’s time to start speaking like one. This means speaking strategically – something you can learn in the Messaging Bootcamp.

For example, when giving a project update many people will default to listing what’s been done or accomplished in regard to their project. While this is important, you also want to speak to the “why” of your project. Why are you working on this? What’s the vision/goal of this project? This way you’re speaking to different kinds of thinkers in the room (logistical and abstract) and don’t risk losing anyone.

But it’s not just speaking at a strategic level, it’s also speaking with commitment, which is something that executives are always doing.  You can do this with clear eye contact  and assertive hand gestures that show certainty to emphasize your points. This is so important that we have professionals spend an entire day on Delivery.

To help build your communication muscle faster, force yourself to be in situations where you need to communicate. 

One of my mentors always said that “leaders are speakers.” I agree because you will never associate executive presence with someone who can’t communicate.

You need to train yourself to be a great communicator. Learn how to negotiate, how to handle conflict, how to lead meetings, how to give keynotes, how to give toasts, and how to speak to inspire.

Notice I said learn. Yes because it is something you can learn too.

Communication skills are like swimming skills, they are difficult to learn from a book or video. It means that in order to get better at communication, you need to put yourself in situations and circumstances to speak. Without that it’ll be hard to develop your skills.

So take classes, attend bootcamps, volunteer to speak at your company and accept any chance you get to communicate and you will get better.

#5: Get Executive Coaching and Training


Great executives get great coaching and training. I remember Warren Buffet once said that the best training he got was a public speaking training. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, paid Tony Robbins millions of dollars for presentation coaching.

Do you get coaching or training for your executive presence?

If yes, then congratulations, you are one of the few. If you don’t, consider looking into it. Coaching will help you uncover the gaps and blind spots and work to fill them. Also, you get to practice speaking and communicating with a professional that will give you direction and feedback. 

If you are interested, book a consultation with us to find out what executive presence coaching might do for you.

#6: Believe In Yourself

The most important element in executive presence is confidence without crossing over to arrogance.

Healthy confidence comes from a strong self belief. When you believe that you have the skills, the talent, the experience, and most importantly you believe that you are a leader, then your confidence will shine through.

Self belief will reduce your insecurities and cause you to move and act in a more self assured way. Self assurance is the foundation of executive presence.

Without self belief your executive presence is just a facade. The slightest challenge to your opinion or authority will bring the whole thing crumbling down. You don’t want that.

It’s good to work on your confidence, self esteem and self belief as much as you work on your skills and appearance.

So think back to the last time you had an interaction with one of your executives at work. How did they behave? How did they speak? What was their body language saying? 

It goes without saying that leaders within a company just show up differently. They’ve got a kind of energy that can command a room, an “it” factor – something that makes them stand out amongst other employees.

If you had this kind of executive presence, what would that be like for you? How would that accelerate your career? 

If you’re committed to your professional growth, then it’s crucial that you take on executive presence training. Fortunately, we offer coaching in that area, and through it we’ve seen thousands of professionals develop themselves into leaders that inspire confidence in others.

If you wish to do the same, I recommend 1 on 1 coaching or one of our public speaking bootcamps designed to develop executive presence in professionals who are committed to moving up in their organization. 

With it you’ll gain access to a community of individuals just like you. So what are you waiting for? Join us today and start seeing your career thrive. 

Check out this article to help you build your confidence and self belief.

Chaz Wolfson