If you visit the website of the Executive Education department of several major universities and look at the class listings, there is a very good chance you’ll find an offering for courses promising to educate you in perfecting your “Executive Presence.” As I write, there is an Executive Presence course offered by the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University, and it promises to educate “...business leaders at all levels who want to become more self-aware, improve their ability to establish genuine connections, and deepen their ability to communicate, influence and lead positive change.”
Without question, it is good for business leaders to aspire to improve themselves for the sake of the organizations they lead, and those striving to better themselves in such a way are to be commended. Yet, in some way, the promotion for this executive education course seems to miss the mark entirely. After all, if the course is for business leaders who “...want to become more self-aware,” doesn’t it require a heightened level of self-awareness to seek growth and sign up for the class in the first place?
Moreover, the desire to establish genuine connections, deepen the ability to communicate, influence and lead positive change are all well within the capacity of any business owner to achieve, but realizing these goals requires business owners to make themselves available - and vulnerable - to their employees. Honestly, the concept of executive presence has far less to do with the executive and far more to do with the presence.
Despite the convenience afforded by communications methods that can deliver messages from a distance, like emails, message boards, and conference calls, there is no substitute for face-to-face, person-to-person communication that takes place in the same room for the purposes of establishing trust, building rapport, and instilling loyalty in workers. In a sense, the medium is the message, and when the medium involves direct interpersonal contact, it communicates the message to the recipient that they are of great importance to the person delivering the message.
This is why the key to executive presence involves your physical presence, inside of a room, with your employees. Undeniably, this is the most surefire approach to ensuring that your employees feel as if they are heard by you because you leave yourself exposed to direct feedback. Whether you agree with all of the perspectives of your employees or not is certainly important, but the significance of regular face-to-face interaction with workers manifests itself in those workers believing and embracing the ways in which they are heard by you. Furthermore, they will be even more likely to embrace the decisions you make that they disagree with because they know you have listened to their objections and factored them into your deliberations.
In fact, if you are capable of scheduling regular meetings with your employees on a seasonal basis, that will create a matchless opportunity for everyone in your organization to get on the same page with you. You can reinforce the mission and purpose of your company, and reaffirm why each individual plays a critical role in propelling your organization across the goal line. These seasonal discussions can go a long way to helping you craft your company into a momentum machine, but your physical presence is essential if you are going to shift your operation into high gear.
In the end, it is a decision to be present at work - not in an executive classroom - that will infuse your executive presence with the greatest meaning and purpose.