The Wow Factor of Leadership: 5 Strategies for Building Your Executive Presence

Surely ESPN’s executives had to show grace under pressure when many of their WatchESPN video streaming users were unable to access the 2014 FIFA World Cup USA-Germany game last week. WatchESPN viewership for the first half of the match reached a whopping 1.4 million simultaneous viewers—a record for the WatchESPN service.

Projecting confidence and decisiveness is essential to being a powerful and inspirational leader. Executive presence is that unmistakable command of the room and an attribute essential for moving up in your career.

Here are strategies for accessing and leveraging your executive presence:

  1. WOW with the first impression – Your first impression is how people will remember you, so ensure that that initial impression is impactful. Proactively decide the impression you want to make in an initial interaction—and act that way.
  2. Leverage your emotional awareness – Tune in your awareness to pick up clues of what others are feeling. Sharpening your emotional intelligence by honing your empathy meter will give you an edge. It allows you to stand in another person’s shoes and to know what someone is feeling and experiencing. Empathy makes you human and highly relatable.
  3. Make others feel safe – The key to great communication is when you easily adapt to different styles and allow divergent opinions to be vetted and heard. Master creating an environment where others feel at ease and safe when you speak.
  4. Read the room – Become insatiably curious of other’s positions and opinions before gathering together. Your ability to know what people are thinking and feeling allows you to more keenly pick up verbal and non-verbal cues in the room.
  5. Focus on your communication – When you demonstrate strong executive presence your language is clear and concise. Buffer language (such as “um” or “well”) and speech detractors (speaking negatively or with doubt in your voice—“sort of,” “kind of,” “just”) will kill your credibility. Ensuring clarity of message, conciseness and vocal emphasis will ensure you are speaking with confidence, authority and leadership.

Executive presence might demonstrate self-assuredness, thought leadership and grace under pressure. Yet attitude is everything. Having a positive approach shows a “can do” outlook of possibility. And leading in such a rapidly changing environment—as the industry is in now—will take a leader who has a mix of transparency, heart, optimism and certainty.

(Esther Weinberg is a leadership expert who works with media companies to predict, prepare, and practice the art of change. She creates breakthrough strategies for such companies as ESPN, Microsoft, Scripps Networks, PromaxBDA, NBCUniversal, Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., Motorola, Warner Bros, Disney ABC Television Group and MTV Networks. Based on her 20-year track record in media industry, she is finishing her book entitled “Leadership Hollywood Style” with her co-author from the Oscars, in which they share how to produce, direct and create star performers.)

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