Want to Get Promoted? You Need a Dose of Executive Presence

My recent webinar on executive presence drew record breaking participation. Why are so many people interested in this topic?

Here’s why: People want to be more recognized and respected. They want access to bigger and better opportunities. They want an advantage.

Having a strong, credible presence is important. You need it in your current job and you need it to open doors. You need it to get access to higher level networks and to win bigger opportunities.

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We talked about how to build your executive presence (and you can get a podcast of the webinar here).

How you feel

  • Be yourself. You need to feel comfortable and confident. The best way to do that consistently is to be who you really are. Putting on an executive-like facade does not work nearly as well as simply being comfortable in your own skin and projecting confidence.
  • Confidence. You don’t need to have a big, showy personality to have executive presence. Having a strong presence is about confidence, not personality. Even if you are a quiet, humble person it’s about putting your best self out there consistently, not changing your personality.


  • If you can’t be confident, be fearless. Don’t back off when you are not confident. You’ll come off much worse if you are tentative and worried about what you are presenting. We talked about ways to achieve a more fearless approach, and build your confidence along the way.
  • Practice and prepare. If you are not comfortable in the moment, then prepare. Don’t feel bad about practicing ahead of time. The worksheets for this webinar help you plan for situations when you need to exert your presence. Script what you will say and rehearse it. You will be more confident in the moment, and you will get more confident over time, with practice.
  • Never mind the details. Don’t wait until you feel like know everything. Disconnect “knowing everything” from having executive presence. If you spend all your time learning the details, you will not gain executive presence. You won’t be stepping up and putting yourself out there, and to make matters worse, people will always see you in the weeds.

How you look

  • Quality matters. It’s not about fashion, it’s about looking like you care. No one ever felt more confident by wearing a cheap suit. Put some effort in.
  • Remove distractions. Make sure nothing about your appearance distracts from your competence. Take stock, get feedback. Make changes.

How you behave

  • Lead the room. Don’t just be in room. Lead the room. We talked about various rooms and types of gatherings and how to portray leadership and confidence in each situation.
  • Be fast on your feet. Part of executive presence is being able to actively listen and respond, and not become defensive under attack. You also have more presence if you can be flexible and don’t always need to stick to the script.
  • Be present! Part of executive presence is presence.” You need to put yourself out there. Don’t stay in the shadows. Speak up. Have something to contribute. Be personable. Be the one to ask key questions or put forth recommendations. Don’t talk just to talk, but don’t be silent just to avoid risk. Step up.
  • Fit in socially. You need to be able to fit in to higher level networks. Get over being awestruck and find a way to personally connect with people as higher levels. If you can’t fit in socially, you will appear junior. You need to make others comfortable that you belong there.

Never appear overwhelmed

  • Ease and grace. Although this is part of how you behave, it’s worth emphasizing because appearing overwhelmed is inversely proportional to executive presence. You need to deal with feeling overwhelmed privately and have others see you as calm and in control. If you appear overwhelmed, no one will see you as ready for more.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her new book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .