I recently had a conversation with a client that had emailed me a year ago. He was referred to me by another Image Consultant in another province, who wanted to coordinate a referral should the client need some help getting image and wardrobe ready for this new position and life change he was making and taking on. On the initial email, he was very open and said he would try it out on his own and get back to me should he need help. Fast forward a year later, we had our first conversation and he admitted to feeling lost and in need of help. He has been asking himself questions that I would ask on my client intake like: “What makes me feel comfortable?”“Does this feel like me?” And then the most important one for me was: “Oh…. wow, I feel and see that I am severely underdressed!”A new job, a new city and province, and a new vibe and corporate culture is a significant change for anyone.
His ability to navigate under these circumstances resulted in a lack of confidence in his corporate wardrobe choices. He felt he wasn’t showing up in the best version of himself as the leader he knows he needs to be. Therefore there was hesitation, stress, and most importantly, some executive presence and nurturing work to do. What was so positive was his awareness of the gap in his corporate image; wanting to understand and communicate more succinctly his personal brand, and deliver stronger communication to meet these challenges head-on. A shift in his mindset resulted in him reaching out for help.
His executive presence needs repair and most importantly to be nurtured. I heard this expression recently and thought that was an interesting use of language to describe how when we forget to pay attention to ourselves and image, it can have some effects – some damaging on our reputation, as was the case in how this was being described. It inspired me to share these two separate client stories as they are going to benefit from nurturing and being nurtured.
Executive Presence is how you look, act, and communicate when you are in the presence of others to build trusting relationships and influence them to achieve desired results and outcomes. There are many dimensions to it. This “essence” is what it feels like to be in your presence, in terms of how your team, your colleagues, and senior-level leaders see you. It’s the gravitas that you have when handling a difficult conversation. It’s how you communicate your capabilities and accomplishments and how you share your team’s results with others. It’s the trust, credibility, and presence that you project when interacting with others during a normal workday or when giving an important presentation.
Harvard Business Review rated “the ability to communicate” as the most important factor in making an executive “promotable.” Even more important than ambition, education, and capacity for hard work.
Congruency, alignment, and nurturing your professional image, behaviour, and communication is critical to your presence as a leader. This was a challenge for one of my high energy, dynamic, well-educated, female entrepreneur clients. Our appearance-based discussion quickly moved into her presence as a leader. She wasn’t in alignment with her corporate image and her presence was not congruent with how she thought of herself as a leader. Her communication and behaviour were unsettled and left those around her with uncertainty.
I was recently helping this new client prepare for a very important business trip where the expectations were for her to show up as the thought-leader and influencer that she is. She wanted me to show her all the wrong things she was packing to take away and write a permission slip if you will. This would take a huge weight off her list of things to do. I smiled and simply asked her how she felt about packing what she had and showing up for these very important meetings – was she going to feel confident, stage-ready if need be, relevant as the leader she is? Pain is a very powerful motivator.
You see, there is nothing wrong with clothing per se unless it’s wrong for you. The conflict she was experiencing was that although as a leader she clearly has “gravitas,” her image and executive presence was not congruent. Therefore, the level of respect and command she has as a leader is not visible to those around her.
Research from the Center for Talent Innovation hosts an excellent survey regarding the executive presence, and it shows that 26% of getting promoted is because of your executive presence. They also found that executive presence rests on three pillars:
Gravitas. This is the core characteristic; 268 senior executives were surveyed and 67% said they felt gravitas is what really matters to move to a leadership position. More than intellectual horsepower, gravitas is about signalling that you have the confidence and credibility to get your point across and create buy-in when the going gets rough.
Communication. People know you have gravitas because you communicate the authority of a leader through your bearing, speaking skills, and ability to command a room. 28% of executives surveyed put this attribute at the top of the list of leadership materials.
Appearance. 5% of leaders consider appearance key in executive presence; all, however, recognize its power as a critical filter and its potential for derailing individuals, those just starting out, and existing business professionals.
In order to own your leadership influence, it is vital to your gravitas as a leader and influencer to pay greater attention to your image and how you feel about yourself, by therefore nurturing your Executive Presence, or corporate image, for personal and professional success.
Michelle Horne, AICI, CIP
Founded in 1995, Putting It Together Image Consulting helps clients learn to “get it together” every day. Run by Michelle Horne, personal image consultant, the company works one-on-one with individuals to define their style identity and use that image to create success in professional and personal situations.
Putting It Together Image Consulting