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Watch Movies -> Gain Executive Presence

Telling someone to have more presence can be just as confusing as telling someone to be more clear. (Remember the importance of delivering Feedback?) I ask myself, how do I have more presence? What, specifically, am I doing that doesn't lend itself to a strong presence?

For Brooke Vuckovic the answer ended up being "watch more movies." Woohoo!

But before you run off and turn on Grown Ups 2, let's understand where that recommendation comes from. Brooke is a Clinical Professor of Leadership at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. And while there are plenty of online lists describing the steps to executive presence, Dr. Vuckovic dives deeper with a simple equation that she presented during "The Insightful Leader Live: Do You Have Executive Presence?":

Executive Presence = ( credibility + ease ) / ego

You may remember Dr. Vuckovic from Issue 19's Big Idea. I'm in awe at the ease with which she talks about leadership and commanding presence, but that's the skill that comes from decades as a top-level executive coach. The best I can do is be a sponge.

It's easy to think of executive presence as an inherent trait; you're either born with it or you're not. But, as I try to level up my own leadership and corporate skills like so many personal development-focused twentysomethings, I'm putting together tangible lessons on how to build executive presence.

Let's learn together...

Executive presence in its simplest terms is about inspiring confidence. It's equal parts authenticity — being your genuine self — and inspiration. You inspire confidence in peers that you are capable and reliable, in your subordinates that you are a leader worth following, and in your senior team members that you have potential. Someone with executive presence has the wherewithal to lead, listen, or inspire others to take meaningful action.

This isn't the only benefit. Strong executive presence is common among high-performing organizations — it's good for the culture. Having employees with strong executive presence strengthens company's internal culture, helps leaders manage teams, and improves organizational performance.

Grown Ups 2 can wait a few minutes longer. Because the three key inputs for executive presence might inspire you to watch something else. (But I do love a good Adam Sandler movie.)

Executive Presence = ( credibility + ease ) / ego


While presenting the power of cryptocurrencies, what if my voice cracks, I talk monotone, or I quickly buzz through the information. All are the opposite of increasing credibility! Not good! To gain credibility, we have an important yet often overlooked tool at our disposal: the voice. Greater inflection in speech demonstrates interest, responsiveness, and expertise; opening the floor to others suggests vocal power. And by eliminating filler words and incorporating pauses, the speaker can convey urgency. How do you dial up your credibility?

The key is foundational credibility: demonstrating expertise, preparedness, and integrity. Being early in my career, I asked the expert how to demonstrate foundational credibility now. "When you’re young and aspiring—your key dial for credibility is work product and delivery."

Executive Presence = ( credibility + ease ) / ego


The next piece of the great equation of Executive Presence is ease. Oftentimes, we can sense ease without realizing it. Nervous tapping, pen clicking, or profuse sweating show unease. Exuding ease is about composure, but it involves more than confidence. By being authentic with others, speaking our needs, and regulating emotions, we can appear at ease. At a spiritual level, this is about being aligned internally and externally — congruence. Then there are the tangible steps to take: diet, sleep, exercise, and eye contact can provide a sense of ease throughout the day.

Executive Presence = ( credibility + ease ) / ego


No, not the character from Ratatouille (Anton Ego).

Ego is the denominator of the Executive Presence equation. Adam Grant's book Think Again describes the Confidence Sweet Spot as confident humility: having faith in our capability while appreciating that we may not have the right solution. By taking this attitude, it's possible to preserve the value that exists from credibility and ease. Cockiness comes from a low level of credibility, high casualness in language, and high ego. Not necessarily what anyone strives for.

Be Present

The benefits of executive presence reach beyond the workplace. After writing about appropriate attire, I couldn't help but chuckle at the phrase during the presentation "dress the part of the job ahead of you." So many of these lessons contribute to a sense of executive presence. Simply following through on your promises increases credibility and ease. I'm happy to have the tangible steps. Who knew there was even an equation?

So the part you've been waiting for: movies! Characters gain trust and evolve over time to increase presence. The King's Speech, Hidden Figures, and the Pursuit of Happiness were mentioned as shining examples of executive presence in action. Cook some popcorn, get out a notebook, and enjoy them with me.


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