My observation of the successful entrepreneurs and business leaders is that they have outstanding interpersonal skills. Sure, technical skills, leadership and managing teams well are vital. However, the “edge” is that you need to be effective at building relationships with your public both from a business and personal point of view – essentially personal public relations.
In my workshops I often ask participants what they think executive or leadership presence is and answers have included:
Living your brand authentically and consciously communicating that.
Awareness of how you conduct yourself in the workplace. What do you want to be known for?
Demonstrate that and do it, not just say it.
Having confident and credible communication.
People skills – being able to work together and understand that everyone has their own style.
Or as I describe it, the ABC’s … appearance, behaviour and communication. This is not news. It’s a subject that has been around a long time.
I remember “back in the day” learning about these traits at what was called modelling and deportment schools. I saved up my fruit shop Saturday morning job wages to go to one of those courses as I thought it was important to my future. It still is. Being aware of the softer intangible skills of standing out – no matter at what age.Increasingly these days, it is also about the D – your digital footprint. And the ABCD’s of image are what the Association of International Image Consultants of which I am a member, espouses.
Let’s take a brief look at the ABCD of executive presence.
Appearance. Dress codes have changed and a “formal”, business look is not always necessary, but it is still important to consider that your clothes, appearance and grooming really are the external image of your brand. What brand image are you projecting?
Some organisations have begun to say to staff, “Dress for your day”, as the new corporate wardrobe policy. Which is fine – it you are aware of what is the appropriate look for you and “your day”. Even if a dress policy doesn’t exist, leaders should look like leaders and set an example.
What signal do you send with your overall appearance and style? Is it friendly, casual, professional, creative, high fashion, a little quirky, or perhaps boring or worse – sloppy? Think about your appearance by choosing clothing that fits and suits you and in colours and styles that highlight and flatter you.
Appearance is also about that extra polish; having well-groomed hair or facial hair and choosing accessories that highlight your outfit rather than take away from it. We know that people shouldn’t judge us by our outward appearance – but they do.
Behaviour. It is worth being aware of acceptable behaviour and acting like a leader. Some “world leaders” seem to get away with acting and saying inappropriate things, but for most of us conducting yourself with dignity and displaying confidence in the way you behave, speaks volumes about your personal brand.
You may have attributes you are unaware of that are perceived negatively by others. For instance, shyness coming across as aloofness or annoying speech habits, lack of good manners, punctuality. These are the things about you that speak loud and clear to others.
Leadership presence can be obtained by practising self-awareness and some self-analysis on your personality traits and professional behaviour.
Is your body language and non-verbal communication such as eye contact and handshake supporting you or subtracting from your essence?
How do you develop relationships with your clients or conduct yourself in social situations or networking events? Are you confident and conversational? I’m sure you’ve seen many examples of people who have had too much to drink at work events and regretted things done or said. Perhaps not good leadership.
You are your brand and how your project yourself is vitally important to the success of your business or career. You’ve no doubt invested a lot of time, effort and money into setting up your own business or learning new career skills – why not invest some time and effort into your self-brand – after all, you’re worth it!
Communication and Digital footprint – I’ll cover in my next blog post.
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Sue Currie is a speaker and the author of IMPRESSario, Present and Promote the Star Within You. She is recognised as a leading authority on personal and professional PR to boost image, profile, brand and business. Through her professional development and profile building programs, workshops, consulting and keynote presentations, Sue helps businesses and entrepreneurs position and present an influential professional brand.