Three Qualities You Need To Build Your Executive Presence

Are you smart, talented, and successful at what you are doing in your company, but keep getting passed over for leadership roles? You may need to work on building up your executive presence. Leadership roles are given to those who both look and act the part—not just the person who has the best abilities.

According to research from the Center for Talent Innovation, there are three qualities you must possess to show executive presence: gravitas, communication, and appearance.


All leaders need gravitas. Over 67% of senior executives surveyed believe this is the most important trait. Gravitas is characterized by six behaviors: exuding confidence, acting decisively, showing integrity, demonstrating emotional intelligence, burnishing reputation, and showing vision.

According to Rose O Sherman, Ed.D, there are a number of ways to show your gravitas. You can demonstrate your confidence in your knowledge and abilities by displaying positive body language. People who stand tall, shake hands firmly, and make eye contact are seen as exuding confidence. Exuding confidence goes hand-in-hand with showing vision. You can show your vision by having a point of view and be willing to share it.


Communication skills are critical to leadership. People who display executive presence tend to have good speaking skills, can own a room, and understand how to read an audience.

If you want to learn how to command a room, according to David Peck, author of Beyond Effective: Practices in Self-Aware Leadership there are a couple of skills you can practice. When speaking, keep your ideas short, simple, and clear, and focused on the discussion at hand. Don’t just restate the ideas of others in the room. Minimize your use of verbal pauses, such as “um”, “you know” and “like” when speaking. When asking questions, focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘how,’ and not on the ‘why.’ Finally, keep your discussion focused on the present and future—not the past.

You may also want to eliminate some of your bad speaking habits. Poorly communicating by making racially insensitive comments, sounding uneducated, or posting your whole life online also detract from how people perceive your executive presence. Here are some other tips from Speaking Coaches that might be useful for communicating.


While not cited as the most important characteristic for executive presence, 5% of executives surveyed believed it was just as important to dress and look like a leader. The two keys to your appearance are good grooming and dressing the part.

A poor appearance can also detract from your executive presence. Don’t come to the office in unkempt or casual attire (if the office is formal) or clothing that’s too provocative.

One final note for building up your executive presence—looking, acting, and talking like an executive is not the same in every business culture. What works in Silicon Valley might flop on Wall Street and vice versa. However, if you work on improving the three qualities of gravitas, communication skills, and appearance, you’re bound to get noticed the next time your boss is searching to fill a leadership role.

Kyle Crocco is the Content Marketing Coordinator at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau, a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, and the lead singer of Duh Professors. He regularly publishes business book reviews and thought articles on Medium, Business 2 Community, and Born 2 Invest.