Article: 'Making a mark': What is Executive Presence and how can HR leaders master it?


'Making a mark': What is Executive Presence and how can HR leaders master it?

HR leaders need to mindfully work on developing their executive presence and increase their personal influence to help them get noticed and bring about positive change.
'Making a mark': What is Executive Presence and how can HR leaders master it?

Business stakeholders are constantly judging and forming opinions based on HR stereotypes. In other words, they’re creating your reputation!

It has become necessary for HR leaders today to rise to the challenge and further strengthen their role beyond the decision-making process to managing relationships and increasingly influencing the management. And for this to happen, HR leaders have to stand out as trailblazers, change agents, and leaders who create the future.

“This is why HR leaders need to mindfully work on developing their executive presence and increase their personal influence. It is this combination that will help them get noticed and bring about positive change. Also , when HR leaders leverage their executive presence they are signalling their readiness for the next level,” says Vikram,  executive, leadership and career development coach at Coach Vikram which offers specialised coaching around CXO advisory, partner promotion, executive transition, startup founders and CEO coaching among others.

What is executive presence?

Vikram defines executive presence as the balance of the behaviours of focus, power, and warmth. These behaviours can be learned and can be switched on and off by choice to bring out your best self and influence people.

Leadership and executive presence - the crucial difference

While leadership is the ability to influence, executive presence is what helps you influence with ease.

“In fact, leaders already emanate leadership qualities. Their presence enables them to expand their spheres of influence, accelerate business results, and stand out,” says Vikram, who has worked with organisations like Aditya Birla Group, Asian Paints, Avendus, Bank Of America, BCG, Capgemini, DBS, DE Shaw, Google, HDFC Life, J.P.Morgan, KPMG, McKinsey, Lightspeed India Partners, Nomura, PwC and VISA among others.

The key components of executive presence for HR leaders

The influence of HR function with management and top leadership is rising. An efficient HR leader goes well beyond good communication and organising skills.  Executive presence helps talented HR leaders to have meaningful influence with the top ranks.

Vikram says to achieve this influence with ease, HR leaders have to use all the nine key components or characteristics of executive presence - Relationship Mindset, Social Awareness, Personal Magnetism, Inner Dialogue, Composure, Personal Brand, Gratitude, Self-Care, and Compassion.  

“As an HR leader, when they balance all these nine components they communicate with likeability, credibility, and trust,” he adds.

Augmenting executive presence for HR leaders in their everyday working

Vikram suggests three actions steps HR leaders can put into practice immediately to work on their presence:

  • Go out and know more people in your organisation. Engaging in not just transactional HR conversations but also meaningful conversations that build relationships.
  • Gather a lot of information on matters related to your field.  A broader knowledge base and expertise will help you display more authority and gravitas and your stakeholders will start taking you more seriously.
  • Make time for yourself and open up about your vulnerabilities so that you can build trust. It’s all right if you are not the smartest person in the room.

Common barriers leaders face when influencing - and solutions to setting the right tone

Vikram lists down common leadership barriers that dilute presence and influence as:

  • Every meeting with them is like a transaction-driven conversation.
  • Often carry emotions from their previous meetings to the next.
  • Engage in conversations that might be a little too focused on themselves, their work, and their experiences.
  • They don’t step into power and dream big or play big.
  • They surround themselves with people who do not inspire.
  • They are not comfortable making a powerful impression.
  • They have a limited view of HR influence on the organisation.
  • They are uncomfortable with vulnerability.
  • They do not give people the benefit of the doubt easily.

Solutions for these include:

  • Having clarity about meeting outcomes is great. At the same time, make an effort to connect with people through common topics even beyond work.
  • Make time to get ready with fresh energy for your next meeting to be more socially aware. and navigate the dynamics in the room.
  • Mindfully shift the spotlight on the other person and let them share while you listen.
  • HR leaders need to allow themselves to dream big and play the game joyfully. Deserving a seat at the table and building value in a discussion is a mindset!
  • Surround yourself with people who are better than you. Recognise your own weaknesses, and have people in your team who will complement your strengths.
  • Create positive momentum and rapport to see early wins.
  • Speak and express ideas succinctly to come across as composed and credible. This Increased confidence and clarity, will inspire your stakeholders to support you.
  • Allow your flaws to flow. Your vulnerability has a humanising effect that will help you be very transparent, authentic, and relatable.
  • Start looking for what is working out rather than what is not working out. You will notice just how fantastic and supportive everyone around you is.

Developing and sustaining a powerful personal brand consistent with one’s values and behaviour

Branding helps you with increased leadership visibility and brand recall.

“And expanding your spheres of visibility and recall, helps you to gain credibility and inspire action. This then results in you influencing with ease for greater success,” says Vikram, suggesting some easy ways one can sustain a personal brand and put themselves in a position to win.

These are:

  • Set aside time to work on new skills. You may want to use this time to work on developing your subject matter expertise.
  • Build strong networks with your senior leaders to build effective partnerships across the organisation. Make a list of your top five key sponsors and have monthly or quarterly touch points with them.
  • Spend time building effective external alliances. Make time to expand your professional and personal networks outside of your organisation.
  • Purposefully design your digital footprint to stand out. For a start, leverage social media to connect with leaders from other organisations.
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Topics: Leadership, Executive Coaching, #HRCommunity

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