Career and Jobs

Women And Common Myths About Executive Presence

There’s a lot of hype around executive presence. Some of it’s true, and some of it’s not. I want to address some issues that apply to women. If you’re a man, feel free to stick around, as some of this advice also applies to you.

Many of you are looking to move into the executive suite or remain there. To do this, you need executive presence. There’s so much noise these days about executive presence that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

Here are a few myths that need dispelling.

Myth #1. The first myth is that if a woman wants to reach the top, she needs to act like a man. While we can learn much from the men who’ve come before us, that doesn’t mean we have to do things the same way to be equally successful.

Many women, who are some of the most successful leaders I know, don’t try to be something they’re not. They’re authentic. That means you’ve got to be yourself. Of course, we can all strive for a better version of oneself.

Find the style of leadership you’re comfortable with, and if you need some help, consider hiring an executive coach who can provide unbiased feedback. Work with this person to build upon your strengths.

Myth #2. Another myth about executive presence is that well-groomed leaders naturally look great. Let me tell you something; these people wake up every day looking like you and me. They have bed heads, bags under their eyes, and shuffle around in their slippers.

Their secret is that many have hired stylists to help them project a more professional image.

I discovered this when speaking with a female CEO who is my client. I commented on how she always looked so well put together. She laughed and told me about Donna, the personal stylist she hired in DC, and Sarah, now her go-to gal in Boston.

She said she relies on her stylist to pick everything, including accessories.

If you’re like many busy women I know, pulling a wardrobe together that says, “I’m in charge!” is probably at the bottom of your list. Well, you need to move it to the top because people make judgements every day based on appearance.

Look around and ask a well-dressed executive for a referral to her stylist. Or make an appointment with a personal shopper at one of the higher-end department stores.

Myth #3. Another myth that drives me crazy is that you’re either born with executive presence or not.

Sure, some people seem to be born leaders. Then there’s the rest of us. But we can acquire these skills. It just takes a little work – and maybe some outside help – to get there.

It’s hard to make improvements unless you know where to begin. That’s why I suggest asking coworkers and your boss for feedback about ways to improve your communication and overall demeanor.

Brace yourself. Chances are, you’re not going to like everything you hear. The key is to constructively accept the feedback and then take concrete action to address areas that will make the most impact.

If you’re serious about making it to the executive suite and staying there, pick one or two things that will help you send the message that you are executive material. After you’ve mastered those, pick a few more; before you know it, you’ll be the example others hope to become!

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