“I despise how arrogant she is. She is aloof whenever she walks into a room. Always talking about how concerned she is for the team. In practice, she ignores you unless she needs you and continually transmits rather than listens. Yet, many people tell me, outside of work she is wonderful to be around.”

Is it possible this is a description of you? How authentic is your executive presence?

Does your executive presence represent your authentic self? Should it? In my coaching practice, executive presence is often the sole reason for the engagement. A high performer is told they need to develop their executive presence. Their quandary, what is executive presence and where to start.

Our starting point is broadly defining executive presence followed by the individual elements.

For the broad definition, I think there are at least two answers; 1) how you present yourself, and 2) how you are received by others. Perspective matters. Often what we think we are presenting is not received.

What is the presence you want others to see? As you think about this, are you the sole judge defining your presence? Usually not. What else influences your presence?

Here are a few considerations: industry/organization, position, age, gender, tenure in a position, and I am sure you can think of a few more.

Stereotypes come to mind when you think about any of the above contexts. What image comes to mind for the following: tech, banking, startup, construction, military, nonprofit, small business owner, education (elementary, secondary, higher), medical, public safety?

Evaluate your current role. Does your organization demand a particular presence? Many roles do. Some are written, such as a dress code. Others are unwritten and are part of the culture. What are the expectations of your presence for your level in the organization?

What do you expect of the top leaders in your organization? How different are your expectations for mid-level leaders? Does age, gender, and longevity change your expectations?

This exercise helps set the parameters for your executive presence. Will the expectations for your executive presence allow you to be authentic?

Let’s explore your meaning of authenticity. How much of yourself should be revealed in your executive presence? The question for most is if you are not 100% authentic, are you acting?

Three thoughts to bring clarity are: trust, vulnerability, and professionalism.

Think of starting a new relationship, personal or professional. How much do you reveal about yourself on day one? Compare that to after three, six, or twelve months. Trust and vulnerability guide you. Time reveals how much you trust those in your environment and how vulnerable you will be. Being vulnerable is not oversharing. Where do you set the limits?

Professionalism is the primary consideration I use to set boundaries. Be clear about your standards of professionalism.

Trust, vulnerability, and professionalism can be used as a guide for authenticity of your executive presence. Be deliberate in making your presence an extension of yourself.

If your executive presence is an act, your authentic presence will eventually be revealed. Time, stress, and complacency will reveal it. The more time you spend with your team the more they will see the authentic you.

Have you ever experienced a leader who always tries to project calmness, yet under stress melts down? What is their authentic self? How about the “buttoned-up always socially correct leader” who gets complacent at social events and demonstrates a different version of themselves?

Your presence is what you deliver and what is received 100% of the time. If your presence is inauthentic, it will be revealed.

To be an authentic leader, be deliberate in building your presence by ensuring you know the following:

  • How you want to present yourself
  • How you want to be received
  • The expectations of your organization, position, etc.
  • How vulnerable you are willing to be
  • How you define professionalism
  • How you act under pressure or when totally complacent

The above guidelines will help you set the broad definition of your executive presence. Additionally, the questions help reveal your alignment with your current role.

Now, that you have completed a personal assessment of your executive presence against your role, ask yourself this question: “Am I capable of fulfilling the requirements to be an effective leader at this level?”

If the answer is “yes”, you are ready to dig into the specific elements of executive presence.


“She does such a good job in front of the entire organization. She is confident, poised, and calm, particularly when we are in the midst of a crisis. I have never seen her lose her cool. We are lucky to have her running the company.”

Who is an individual who exudes Executive Presence (EP)? Mentally tick off the traits that influence your opinion. Based on those traits, what is EP?

Executive Presence, is often hard to define. However, we know when we see it.

For me EP is how well a person fits the perception of a particular position. I expect the CEO of an organization to represent the organization and the position in a specific manner. I also expect the leader of my team to behave and act a certain way. If they do not, it affects my opinion of them and the organization.

The essential question is; Do you have to look the part in order to land the part? The short answer is yes. Looking and acting the part of a leader is as important and sometimes more important than the other skills you bring to the table. So, what are the components of executive presence and can they be developed?

Using data from and an extensive survey conducted by COQUAL, formerly “The Center for Talent Innovation”, executive presence relies on three pillars; Gravitas, Communication, and Appearance. And yes, they can be developed.

Let’s take a look at each one. While we look at each pillar consider three people; 1) someone you believe is a model of EP, 2) yourself, and 3) someone you are leading and mentoring. Also consider how the pillars are integrated.

The confidence, competence, and poise a leader radiates, particularly when under stress. It’s that simple. Leaders are critically judged on how they respond in a crisis. A question I use to evaluate this pillar is; “In a crisis do people move towards this individual or away?”

What is your evaluation of the person who is a model of EP, yourself, and your mentee. What is working in the area of gravitas? What is not working? What needs to change?

Communication Skills
Excellent communication skills infer being able to connect with and influence others in a multitude of settings. “Commanding the room” is a common descriptor. Sometimes the room is a large auditorium. Other times it is in the field, an office, board room, or a lunch meeting. Sometimes it is virtual, one-on-one, and other times one-on-many, formal and informal.

Evaluate your three individuals and consider the elements of communications. How well do they connect with their audience? What is it that allows the connection? Are they talkers or listeners? Do they spend time explaining data and details or relating emotions and empathy?

Does appearance really matter?

Science has shown that, based on appearance, we will unconsciously make a decision on trust within a quarter of a second.

Yes, appearance matters. But what parts of appearance?

The study showed that the important elements of appearance are not good looks. Grooming, polish, and looking fit are what matters.

First, have the right clothes properly tailored to your body type. Second, be put together; with haircuts, facial hair, and makeup for women. Third, appearing fit means being able to have the fitness to handle the stresses of the position.

If you do not look the part, it may be an automatic disqualifier. The good news; meeting these criteria is not difficult. You can do something today to improve your appearance tomorrow. Hence you improve your EP.

Make your final evaluation and draw some conclusions. How do you fit the criteria of having EP. How about the subordinate you are mentoring?

What are you going to do about it?

The three pillars do not stand alone, they are integrated with Gravitas the most important. Demonstrating confidence, competence, poise, and credibility are required. How you project your image is affected by how you communicate and look.

Be deliberate and project your image. Create it, refine it, and maintain it.

“I am looking to keep my career moving and I am making a push for a promotion to the next level at my current company:”

That is from an executive client at a large tech firm. Starting as a technician, he worked his way up over 13 years into the executive ranks. When he came to me with the above statement, I proposed using a particular framework for career development. The framework considers executive expertise in five areas: leadership, technical, tactical, business, and cultural.

Being in a tech firm he wanted data that could help him. Hence, he requested a 360-degree evaluation and pulled one out from 18 months ago.

In his examination using the five areas of the framework he assessed the level of expertise required at the next level and how well he met those criteria. He also rigorously evaluated his previous 360 and current professional growth and progress.

Additionally, he worked with Human Resources for detailed descriptions of the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA’s) for his current and next level. Being a mature tech company, there were very good descriptions of performance criteria. As a data driven professional, he mapped his current performance against the KSA’s for both levels.

Once he completed this process, he chose two areas to focus his development; business expertise and leadership. With business expertise, he felt growth in understanding where the numbers came from and the factors that influenced them would make a difference in his ability to be a better decision maker.

With his leadership, he wanted to develop in two areas; growing as a strategic thinker and being a better listener.

He then tied his two areas of development to specific KSA’s, to develop skill sets to be more effective at his current position and in preparation for the next level. Sitting down with his boss, he walked him through the analysis and asked for feedback and direction on the path forward.

This may be the most rigorous process I have seen an executive take. His mindset is; I need criteria to be measured against and objective feedback on progress. Without it I am just guessing.

Together with his boss they are creating specific opportunities to focus on development. Some will be short term events and others are ongoing behavior changes.

What can you do to accelerate your development? I gave you the specifics of this case however, his process hit three areas:

1) Criteria: he found criteria to assess himself against. First, a general framework then the more specific KSA’s

2) Assessment: he used a self-assessment, a formal 360, and the opinion of his boss.

3) Action and Feedback: he chose specific areas to develop and is taking specific actions to develop himself. He is also incorporating feedback measured against objective criteria.

Some coaching questions:
How can you implement this for yourself and/or your direct reports?
What would be the impact if you did?

Conversation between colleagues:

“I think I need to change my job title to fire chief. I feel like I spend the entire day dealing with fires. One after the other, in meetings and in between, everyone comes to me with their issues to resolve. I thought after I got to this stage things would change. Granted I am good at it, enjoy a fast-paced operation, and I get a lot of satisfaction by solving issues, but I am feeling like I am not focused on the right areas.”

Could this be you? To me this is a leader who was promoted for their ability to produce results.  It could also be a founder stuck in startup mode, that has not grown into their new leadership role.

If the above resembles you, what would be the impact if you were able get off the “key person” treadmill? Many leaders talk about reducing stress, increasing productivity and being focused outwardly. But, how do they do it?  Here are some thoughts.

To get started, answer two simple questions:

  1. What elements of your leadership position give you the most satisfaction?
  2. How do you define a productive day?

These are not surface level questions. Isolate when and where you feel the most accomplished during your day? Does your answer have any elements of: being called on to solve immediate problems, operating at a fast pace, or being able to pack a lot into each day?

Let’s explore what this tells you by using some metrics on the above questions. Use a scale of 1-10 to rate the elements of your position where you feel the most satisfied.

Make your own list but, here are some examples to help you get started:

  • Being fully engaged in the daily pace
  • Mentoring my subordinates
  • Growth of my subordinates
  • Solving problems
  • Being at the center of operations
  • Leaving work each day knowing I accomplished a lot
  • Building a strategic vision
  • Being a subject matter expert
  • Creating partnerships

Now define a productive day: When I am driving home, I feel it is a productive day when…

What does the data tell you? You probably have a tendency to lean towards the fast pace tactically involved leader or the leader with the long-term view trying to stay out of the daily fray.

Face it, some of us have an addiction to the frenetic daily pace and being the one who “makes it all happen”.  It is exciting, satisfying, and exhausting all at once. Others gain no satisfaction from a feverish pace and solving problems on the spot. How should you be measuring your success as a leader of your organization? The essential question is: “What does your organization need?”

Here is what I have found in working with leaders from all types of organizations. Founders of startups, new business owners, and leaders in disruptive business operations require a highly involved decision maker capable of operating at a fast pace.  More mature organizations tend to need a strategically focused leader, attentive to developing individuals and looking up and out rather than down and in.

The problem arises when a leader is promoted or the business has transitioned. The satisfaction and productivity that made them so successful in their ascent is now a liability. It is a revelation for leaders and boost for the organization when they realize they have been using the wrong metrics for success and make a change.

A secondary issue, is some members of the organization do not want the leader to change. They want the involvement and answers from the leader and constantly try to pull them back to their previous practices.

Based on your current roles and responsibilities and the maturity of the organization, what type of leadership is needed from you? How should the metrics for measuring your success have changed? How should you measure your success today?

Put yourself in the setting with the best leader you ever worked with – what was it like?

What was the impact on your life, your family, your friends?

Now put yourself in the setting with the worst leader you ever worked with – what was that like?

What was the impact on your life, your family, your friends?

How far reaching were the impacts of the leadership you experienced? The impacts were extensive, weren’t they?

Did you ever come home from a day of interaction with those individuals and talk about them?

What were your emotions? Happiness, motivated, anxiety, dread?

Who do you want to work for? Dumb question isn’t it?

Now put yourself in the shoes of those who work for and with you. What is it like?

What is the impact you are having on their lives? When they go home what are they saying about your leadership and how do they feel?

You have an impact on the lives of those around you and the people close to them. Your leadership differentiates you and the quality of the lives of your associates, especially your direct reports.

So how are you doing and what is your leadership trajectory?

I bet in you have an image of the type of leader you are and a vision of the path you are on. Is it accurate? How can you prove its accuracy?

You need feedback. Honest unvarnished feedback from all sides; those above, adjacent, and below you. Then what? Use it! Use the feedback to establish and validate your starting point relative to your vision. Isn’t this what you do every day your direct reports?

What do leaders do? First, leaders set the vision for their organization and people. Then they continually monitor progress by assessing, measuring, providing feedback, and making changes to achieve their vision. They do the same to develop their people.

Why then do leaders fail to do the same for their growth? A couple of prominent reasons I have found are, 1) because leaders feel they can evaluate themselves accurately and 2) they are reticent to hear the feedback, specifically from a 360-degree evaluation.

Reality, we all need feedback and assistance to attain our vision. Particularly if you are a leader dealing out a lot of feedback. The truth, everyone already knows the answers – except you. Your mannerisms, quirks, and frequent sayings are all part of daily conversations with those around you. You have blind spots negatively impacting your ability to lead and those around you want to reveal them. They want you to be a better leader.

How do you feel about the individual who takes feedback well, asks for assistance, and is continually working to improve themselves? It usually differentiates that person. Is that an image you project?

Leadership is the great differentiator and your leadership is differentiating you. Do you know how?

#Happy New Year

#Leadership is the great differentiator. Leaders out perform their peers and organizations with a leadership culture outperform the competition. How are going to differentiate yourself and your organization this year?

Consider Coaching

What do high performers have in common? They have a coach. Someone who helps them play better. As your coach I assist you in developing a clear vision of where you want to go. I assist you in honestly and objectively assessing your current state. And finally as a partner I assist you in developing your path forward – aligned with your values.

Goal setting, measuring progress, mapping the journey, and celebrating successes are all part of the process. Every high performer has a partner who helps them to grow and play better. A recent comment from a client: “Coaching has given me totally new perspective on how I approach my leadership. I have grown so much in the past several months. I know where I want to go, what I need to work on to get there, and can see my progress.”

Want to make progress and differentiate yourself? Contact me for a complementary coaching session to explore how coaching can make a difference in your life.

Veteran Leaders: Win $10,000 and World-Class Business Coaching with Gary Slyman, USNA ‘81

Veteran leaders, listen to the Service Academy Business MasterMind Podcast at:  https://www.sabmgroup.com/global-good-fund

You have the opportunity to win $10,000 to assist you in developing your leadership to lead your social enterprise. The deadline is 31 August 2018.



In the business world you hear constant talk of differentiating yourself and your business. How to differentiate yourself is not hard. If you are a leader you outperform your peers. If your company has a culture of leadership you will out perform your competition.

What is hard is being a leader and creating a leadership culture. What does it take? It takes starting with a solid foundation:

  1. Establishing your vision
  2. A ruthless assessment of where you are today
  3. The soul searching process of validating your values
  4. Taking consistent disciplined actions to live by and run your organization aligned with your values

Easier said than done. Do you know of any individuals or organizations that articulate and consistently live by their values? If you do, I will venture that they are high performing trusted individuals and organizations and seen as leaders.

What actions are you taking to develop yourself as a leader and develop a leadership culture for your organization? If your actions are not based on the foundation of values what is the foundation? Set a solid foundation for your actions otherwise you are destined to be in the middle of pack – just ordinary.

Leadership differentiates you and your organization from the ordinary.

Career Change

What if you had clarity about where you are going with your next career transition and why? What would the impact on your life be if your home and work lives were in balance, your current position capitalized on your strengths, and your career path was fulfilling your values and life purpose? That is the goal of transition coaching, to assist you with your career change.

I want to help you get on that path by introducing you to transitions coaching. Your first question probably is: What does transition coaching look like? I will give you the general framework I use to guide my transition coaching. However, every engagement is unique and tailored to meet your specific needs.

My Transition Coaching Process

As a formally trained professional coach I provide support, encouragement, perspective, strategies and accountability to support you in achieving your desired results. I provide the coaching, and you do the work. My process is built on the well-researched scientific foundation of Intentional Change Theory. You will start by defining and discovering your “ideal self” and future situation. That definition will intentionally drive your transition to your new career or position. This process is not about resumes and networking, it is about you discovering what would be ideal for you based on your strengths, values, and what is important in your life.

For maximum growth the recommended engagement time is six months with coaching sessions every 2-3 weeks. Some engagements may be shorter, however shorter engagements may limit the overall success. My minimum engagement for transition coaching is four sessions. A typical six-month engagement for transition coaching looks like this:

Session 1

A two-hour session. We set the agreement for the engagement, establish the relationship, explore your strengths, focus areas, and overall goals. Generally sessions after the first are for one-hour unless you would like longer sessions

Session 2

We will focus on the vision you have for an ideal transition. Working through a process you will define your vision for an ideal transition. In this session values and life mission or purpose are explored.

Session 3

We build on session two and we will continue to gather more data. That data may be self-assessments or self-reflective exercises. The goal is for you to build your self-awareness and take inventory of your strengths and gaps compared to your ideal vision. Relationships that will provide support, help, and encouragement throughout the process will also be explored. Using the acquired data a learning agenda is built to set the path to pursue your vision.

Session 4 & Beyond

Consist of working through the learning agenda; setting goals, taking action, experimenting, developing new behaviors, evaluating successes and making adjustments as needed to achieve the vision. Values, strengths and progress towards your vision will be constantly revisited and assessed. Health, self-care, balance, and family life are integrated into the process.

The Final Session

This is where the engagement is extended or closed and plans for next steps are put into place to ensure continued growth towards your ultimate vision.

The Result

The result is clarity about where you are going with your transition and why. You will have also developed a plan to take charge of putting your home and work lives are in balance, finding a position that capitalizes on your strengths, and determine a career track with the potential to fulfill your values and life purpose.

Want to learn more? Contact Gary Slyman at Great Transitions Strategies at: https://greattransitionsstrategies.com/contact-regular/

Millennials are rapidly filling leadership roles and responsibilities in many organizations. Here is a look at what millennials want to increase their leadership capacity and grow. https://lnkd.in/d_A9Hc2 .

Want to learn more?

Contact us to explore the benefits of leadership coaching https://greattransitionsstrategies.com/contact-regular/