“Executive Presence” for Introverts

Yesterday I spoke at the HQ of a global bank, and during the Q and A following my talk, an HR leader raised her hand to ask an important question that I hear all time. So I thought I’d answer it here, and share with all of you.


I see many talented people who don’t get promoted, because they lack “executive presence.” How can I help them get to where they should be?


  1. You don’t have to be great at presence. (You’re great at other things.) You just have to be good enough. Think of it on a scale of 1 to 10. You don’t have to be a 10; 6 should do the trick. You can get from a 2 to a 6, right?


  1. The best way to get rid of any discomfort or fear is to expose yourself to it, little by little, again and again, in a supportive setting. Join Toastmasters. Attend religiously.


  1. Presence, as Amy Cuddy observes in her seminal book of that title, is about bestowing awareness and attention on others. Once you get rid of the emotional clutter of worrying how you’re coming across, or feeling unentitled to take the spotlight, this should come pretty naturally.


  1. Presence is also about confidence. This does not require you to be one of those naturally confident people at whom you may marvel. Just get into the habit of speaking from a place of conviction. Practice deciding what you think about things. Exercise this skill as you would any other muscle, even if you’re simply arriving at an opinion of last night’s movie. You can speak softly. People will hear the conviction in your voice.


  1. Presence is also about energy. But you don’t have to display an amped-up energy. Inner energy comes through just as powerfully. Energy comes from passion. It comes from finding and acting from the things that light you up. So try to find your passion source. If you can’t find it, try to change jobs. Seriously.


  1. We all have physical tics we revert to when uncomfortable – running our hands through our hair, adjusting our ties. Body language experts call these “unconscious adapters.” Figure out and minimize your own unconscious adapters, just the way you strive to eliminate your ums and ahs from verbal conversation.


  1. Of everything on this list, #6 is the least important, because it’s an outward adjustment. The inner adjustments matter so much more.

I hope this helps! Would love to hear your thoughts, and also your stories of developing your own presence.