YP Women’s Network: Executive Presence in a Digital Age

Bora Laci, Assistant Director of Programs, Southern Methodist University

Jacqueline Twillie, Founder of ZeroGap, a training and development firm that specializes in leadership curriculum for women, spoke to the YP Women’s Network about the importance of executive presence in a digital age.

Twillie defined executive presence as the ability to showcase your leadership in action and convey confidence while you communicate. With the recent shift to a virtual environment during COVID-19, it is more important to be more mindful in the way we verbally and physically communicate.

In order to become an effective leader, this learned skill must be consistently implemented.

Twillie outlined the mistakes to avoid when it comes to executive presence and the five powerful tools to unlock the skill set.

Mistakes to avoid:

      1. Be mindful of your body language, especially during virtual calls.
      2. Eye contact is important – do not avoid it.
      3. Avoid using qualifiers and minimizers when making a statement. To increase your executive presence, say what you want to say in a clear, concise manner.
      4. Do not avoid conflict. As a leader, you need to address issues in your team or organization.
      5. Avoid taking on unnecessary work. A leader knows how to delegate tasks to his/her team and enhance his/her skill set. If you are starting out in your career, it is important to not take on multiple tasks; see each task through to learn how to manage your work.
      6. Don’t emulate others. Figure out your own style and voice. You must be authentic; be yourself. You may emulate some best practices but do not mimic another person’s behavior.
      7. When you express self-doubt and self-deprecation often, you are taking away your presence as a leader.
      8. Do not be secretive. A great leader has people who trust them. If your team is not aware of most things in the organization, they can start to lose their trust with you.
      9. Reacting vs. responding. A leader knows that it is better to respond and adapt in a situation than to react when something does not go right.

Five steps to executive presence:

      1. Self-awareness drives behavior. Once you identify how you want to show up as a leader, you can adjust your behavior to portray that version of yourself.
      2. Self-efficacy is the anecdote to imposter syndrome. Second-guessing yourself holds you back. Do not let imposter syndrome stop you from being the best version of yourself.
      3. Get comfortable with power. Assess how confident you are with commanding attention and owning the room.
      4. Asking questions on a regular basis is critical. A leader does not have all the answers, but he/she is curious and asks open-ended questions. Information is power.
      5. Integrity is the cornerstone of executive presence. Your values should be aligned with what you say and do, even in moments of crisis and change.

Executive presence isn’t about being in the moment. It is about being strategic, creating long-term actions, and thinking outside the box.

Leadership is a skill that can be enhanced and, with tools such as executive presence, you can transform how you lead in a team and organization.

Start your journey to leadership by reading Twillie’s books “Navigating the Career Jungle,” and “Don’t Leave Money on the Table: Negotiation Strategys.”