When Developing Executive Presence, Remember EI

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When Developing Executive Presence, Remember EI

If I had to identify one action that executives in any industry could take to move their leadership ability from good to great, it would be to develop their executive presence. And if I had to pinpoint perhaps the most influential dimension of presence that high potentials could focus on improving, it would be to hone their sense of emotional intelligence, or EI.

I’m reminded of the importance of these key leadership traits while preparing a Skillsoft series on Mastering Your Executive Voice. One thing that’s clear is that there is a void of EI in the workplace these days. This disappointing reality has resulted from a number of factors that include constant pressure on leaders for results, and the omnipresence of personal technology in our pockets—having multiple handheld devices that distract us and consequently keep us from connection with the people standing right next to us, including our own teams.

Executive presence and EI are intricately linked, in that both require learning to be truly present with our presence. This means not just speaking with presence, but removing our own lens to really listen to alternative perspectives and viewpoints, a skill that is particularly critical for leaders who want to establish credibility and influence others. If executive presence is a tool that can help you create the right climate and culture for people to trust you as a leader (certainly one of the biggest challenges for today’s executives), then emotional/social intelligence is a related internal resource you can draw upon to boost this leadership power.

Here are three steps to take to help immediately boost your executive presence and EI:

  • See what you bring. Do you have an awareness of how you are showing up in every interaction in the workplace and the impact you are having with others? Though executive presence is a somewhat intangible quality, the bottom line is that it’s about the way you carry yourself and the persona you convey when communicating with others, whether in group meetings or one-on-one conversations. What dynamic does your presence create in the room? Does your presence help to inspire others? Are you seen as a stabilizer during times of change? If you’re not happy with your current presence and the signals you’re sending out when engaging in daily interactions, then it’s time to hone your EI with the strategies below.


  • Look within. EI is all about our internal radar. Foundationally, it centers on listening to yourself to be alert for any type of internal bias that may be affecting your problem solving and decision making. A first step to improving your EI is to become aware of your own mental narrative (which may be unconscious) that could be sabotaging your best self as a leader, or may negatively impact your relationships with others. While you may think you are free from bias, everyone is prone to some bias, including leaders. By learning to see your own brand of bias, you’ll be taking a step toward understanding how your interactions affect others from an EI perspective.


  • Listen to learn. Are you someone who knows how to listen to others and recognize what they are feeling before you try to convince them of something? Old-school leaders assume their way is the right way and spend most of the time talking to spread their own viewpoint. Today’s leaders, however, need to be much more emotionally intelligent than this, and must extend their self-awareness of their own biases to pick up on others’ emotions by intently listening to them. Your goal is to develop your ability not just to hear what people say, but also to detect how others feel. This involves watching for cues like body language and tone rather than just focusing on the words that come out of someone’s mouth.


As you can see, EI is as much about you as it is about others—it combines self-awareness with social awareness. Once you combine self-management and understanding with relationship management and a cognizance of how others feel, you’ll be well on the way to strengthening your executive voice and creating a powerful presence.

If you’re ready to up your game when it comes to your presence and EI, start by clicking here. You can also learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s executive coaching and leadership development services—which are available for both men and women leaders and executives—by contacting me at info@shambaughleadership.com.

Rebecca Shambaugh is President of SHAMBAUGH, a consulting firm dedicated to take leaders to the next level through their executive coaching, women’s leadership and inclusive leadership offerings. Rebecca is the Founder of Women in Leadership and Learning, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, and blogger for the Huffington Post. She is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results

Hear Rebecca Shambaugh’s new keynote on “The Power of One” by contacting Becky at info@shambaughleadership.com

Connect and learn about SHAMBAUGH by visiting our website at www.shambaughleadership.com

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