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Understanding executive presence : Perspectives of business professionals
journal contributionposted on 2014-01-01, 00:00 authored by G R Dagley, Cadeyrn GaskinCadeyrn Gaskin
Executive presence is an unclear concept but one that reportedly has a substantial influence on successful leadership. The purpose of this study was to understand the meaning of executive presence from the perspectives of business professionals with expertise in the effectiveness of organizational executives. From interviews with 34 professionals, 5 main findings emerged: (a) executive presence is based on audience perceptions of the characteristics of particular people, (b) 10 core characteristics affect executive presence (status and reputation, physical appearance, projected confidence, communication ability, engagement skills, interpersonal integrity, values-in-action, intellect and expertise, outcome delivery ability, and coercive power use), (c) perceptions are based on impressions made during initial contacts (first 5 characteristics) and on evaluations made over time (second 5 characteristics), (d) the characteristics combine in different ways to form 4 presence archetypes (positive presence, unexpected presence, unsustainable presence, and dark presence), and (e) the majority of the executives described as having presence were men. Based on the interview material, we suggest that a person with executive presence is someone who, by virtue of how he or she is perceived by audience members at any given point in time, exerts influence beyond that conferred through formal authority. The findings serve to highlight the complexity of executive presence, particularly in terms of the breadth of characteristics that underpin this construct and the influence of time on people's perceptions.