Meet Sarah, a marketing executive for one of New York’s largest interior design firms. She’s an innovative powerhouse who’s passionate about her team’s projects and determined to make a difference in her community. Join us at Talento as we explore the secrets of executive presence and guide you on your own path to becoming a business executive.
What Is Executive Presence?
Executive presence combines several key traits and characteristics that successful business leaders embody as they guide their organizations through various challenges and celebrate successes. Executive presence is not solely about one’s title or position. Rather, it is a set of characteristics that exude leadership, engender trust, and create a sense of assurance in other team members. Some of the most common attributes that define executive presence include:
1. Conciseness: Conciseness is the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently, conveying ideas with clarity and brevity. Executives who demonstrate conciseness command attention and respect by delivering impactful messages without unnecessary elaboration or ambiguity.
2. Character: Character involves utilizing ethical and moral principles that shape a leader’s decision-making with integrity and consistency, building trust and credibility among their team and stakeholders.
3. Command: Command denotes projecting authority, competence, and confidence while being an effective communicator who articulates a clear vision and fosters collaboration and open communication.
4. Composure: Composure means maintaining calm and emotional balance, especially in challenging situations, inspiring confidence in the team, and facilitating well-considered decisions.
5. Confidence: Confidence is a belief in one’s abilities, ideas, and decisions, motivating the team and empowering a positive work environment while remaining open to feedback and continuous learning.
Related: TalentoHC Executive Jobs
As a skilled engineer in the aerospace industry for several years, Tim set his path to becoming an executive. Early in his career, he encountered criticism for his limited experience in advanced design, his reserved demeanor during team meetings, and his disruptive, yet innovative, approach to implementing new engineering methodologies. However, Tim perceived criticism as an avenue for growth, actively seeking mentorship from seasoned aerospace executives and enrolling in specialized leadership development programs to hone his engineering leadership skills. With relentless determination, Tim was recently placed by a Talento recruiter into a dynamic chief technology officer (CTO) role, commanding admiration and respect from his peers and stakeholders in the aerospace sector and beyond.
What Skills Do All Business Executives Possess?
The progression upward within an organization initially results in an increase in direct employee management, as well as increases in leadership and strategic thinking responsibilities. As you become a more senior member of your organization, you typically spend less time managing team members directly and more time on strategic, innovative, and decision-making activities. This means that to become a successful executive, it’s essential to develop your acumen in broad strategic vision casting and culture-fitting leadership.
Recent Study Links Leadership and Strategic Thinking to Employee Creativity
A study published in 2023 by the International Journal of Professional Business Review discusses “knowledge-oriented leadership as a moderator in the link between strategic thinking and employee creativity” (Alzghoul, A., K. M. et. al., Mar. 2023). Using partial least squares-structural equation modeling, the researchers behind this study found a clear association between a display of strategic thinking in leadership teams and overall employee creativity, with knowledge-oriented leadership moderating that association.
- Strategic Thinking: This study defines strategic thinking as comprising two main areas of competence: (1) Providing information to the people working in a company to identify opportunities, threats, and issues for the future success of the team and (2) knowing how to manage them permanently and continuously (Goldman et al., 2015; Dionisio, 2017).
- Knowledge-oriented Leadership: According to other commonly cited literature, This type of leadership orientation empowers the creation of unique ideas and valuable knowledge to inspire and promote innovation and drive performance (Ferraresi et al., 2012). Those who display this form of leadership identify, support, and incentivize the knowledge-based capabilities and efforts within their teams (Ribière & Sitar, 2003).
What Does This Mean for Me?
If you want to develop your executive presence and work your way to the top, it’s essential to focus on blending your skills in leadership and strategic thinking. As the study by Alzghoul et al. (2023) suggests, there is a significant relationship between these skill sets and the creativity of employees. This underscores the importance of honing your ability to guide your team while also strategically envisioning the future of your organization.
To excel in leadership, you need to transition from being a hands-on manager to a visionary leader who can inspire, communicate effectively, and foster a collaborative environment. A deep understanding of your organization’s culture and values will allow you to lead by example and create a cohesive team that works towards common goals.
Simultaneously, developing your strategic thinking skills involves more than just making informed decisions. It entails grasping the broader industry landscape, identifying trends, and anticipating challenges. By being proactive and adaptable, you can steer your organization in the right direction and capitalize on emerging opportunities.
A dual focus on leadership and strategic thinking will equip you with the tools to navigate the complexities of today’s business world. As you ascend the corporate ladder, remember that success as an executive goes beyond managing day-to-day operations; it requires a holistic approach that marries insightful leadership with a forward-thinking strategy. So, invest in cultivating these skills, stay attuned to the latest research, and continually adapt to the ever-evolving business landscape to stand out as an exceptional executive.
Tips for Becoming a Business Executive
Here are some strategies you can use to develop these skills in the next chapter of your career to work toward becoming an executive:
1. Create a one, five, and ten-year plan
Success takes time. It’s important to be patient as you plan your path toward the executive suite. Creating well-defined plans with attainable goals can help you maintain focus as you perform well in your current role and prepare for your journey to the top. Here are some examples of plans that a current sales manager may make to plan their path toward an executive role:
One-Year Plan (Sales Manager):
- Increase sales revenue by 20% through targeted prospecting and personalized client engagement strategies
- Attend three sales conferences or workshops to enhance negotiation and persuasion skills
- Collaborate with marketing to create customized sales materials for specific customer segments
- Mentor and coach two junior sales team members to foster their growth and success.
Five-Year Plan (Project Manager):
- Successfully lead and deliver five high-impact projects on time and within budget
- Obtain Project Management Professional (PMP) certification to further enhance project management expertise
- Build and lead a cross-functional project team for a large-scale initiative
- Develop and implement new project management methodologies to improve project efficiency and stakeholder communication.
Ten-Year Plan (Entrepreneur):
- Launch and scale two successful businesses in different industries
- Establish a network of mentors and advisors to gain valuable insights and guidance
- Develop a strong personal brand as an industry expert through speaking engagements and thought leadership content
- Create a foundation to support entrepreneurship and education initiatives in underserved communities.
2. Conquer your imposter syndrome
According to Psychology Today, around 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. Recent studies have shown that imposter syndrome disproportionately affects women, underrepresented minorities, and those who are early in their careers.
3. Pursue continuous education and read books and articles by innovative leaders
Besides the numerous other benefits of continuous education, higher education has been proven to lead to increased salaries and lower unemployment:
(Data Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Pursuing additional degrees is always an option, but there are many ways to stay sharp and continuously learn new concepts related to your career path. Here are some books that provide unique perspectives on leadership and strategic thinking from some well-known business executives and innovative thinkers:
- The Leadership Challenge by Barry Posner
- Good to Great by James Collins
- Leadership and Self-Deception by Arbinger Institute
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- The Mind of the Leader by Rasmus Hougaard
Remember, the path to executive excellence is one of continuous learning and growth. Stay knowledgeable and connected by subscribing to the Talento Human Capital Insights Journal. Your journey to becoming an exemplary executive with a strong executive presence starts here.