Is executive presence only for extroverts?
Extroverts do have the advantage when it comes to displaying their executive presence. They naturally tend to come across as more confident, outgoing and at ease with the dynamics of personal interaction. Introverts often struggle more to speak up, stand out and show confidence, which are key elements of having executive presence.
Does that mean that there is no hope for introverts otherwise displaying the makings of great leadership? Absolutely not. In my talk “Executive Presence: Four Ways to Convey Confidence and Command Respect as a Leader,” I outline the pillars of building the persona you need to present in order to advance your career. The truth is, many introverts already possess a more subtle but equally critical version of the key elements of executive presence.
If you want to know how to bolster yours and really shine, review these four key points.
Think about the elements that make up confidence. When we think of the quality, we imagine someone who is certain in their own convictions. Someone who is calm, in control and offers a reassuring presence to others in any given situation. Overconfidence is easily spotted and looks like bravado -- or worse, bluffing. While extroverts might be more prone to overstating their case, introverts are likely coming from a more modest angle, and may already be that calming presence for others.
Think of making sure you are heard as a means to bolster and reassure others instead of “talking just to be seen.” You may find yourself more inclined to speak up and evenly state your position when you remember it helps other people, too.
The words “bold” and “introvert” hardly seem to go together in the traditional sense. Is it really that bold for the extrovert to stand out if it’s effortless to do so? An introvert who overcomes their natural tendency to hang back might be the boldest of us all. Your presentation doesn’t need to be flashy to become known as someone who not only makes a decision, but also is willing to stand by it.
Once you have made that leap to put a stake in the ground and own a position, you can handle whatever comes your way for the sake of yourself and the others around you.
Many people may already trust the introvert as an authentic presence in the workplace, less prone to gossip or being a showy persona. Where the challenge for introverts may come is in allowing others to get to know your character and see that your personality matches your words and actions. Difficult, if no one ever hears your words! Introverts can sometimes be mistaken as standoffish instead of understated. A closed book, instead of a quiet one.
People need to know a little bit about you and where you stand in order to trust, but once they see and hear you in action, they’ll know you follow through on your commitments.
Similarly, introverts often have great insight into the situation at hand or even the company as a whole, since they may be sitting back and really listening instead of waiting for their next opportunity to speak like many of their extroverted counterparts. The issue often lies, however, in getting introverts to share those insights in a group setting, or even at all.
So often, I hear my introverted clients say, “I didn’t think anyone would want to hear my thoughts,” or, “I wanted to think a bit more and put my ideas in an email before the next meeting.” People absolutely DO want to hear your ideas, and they want them in the moment! Practice being clear and concise on the fly, and the smart analysis and critical thinking you already have will be greatly appreciated and highly valued.
Never think that as an introvert you are starting from scratch when working to build your executive presence. Extroverts don’t have the market on executive presence cornered -- they are just more inclined to show it. You may even outclass many of your colleagues in the critical building blocks of executive presence, without the natural tendency to highlight your strengths.
It’s not about making noise. It’s about offering value -- to your organization, to your colleagues and to yourself. This is what helps introverts to higher levels of leadership. Work at changing your perception of the purpose of standing out or speaking up, and you’ll find that the qualities you already have identify you as an excellent leader in the making.
Joel Garfinkle provides corporate webinar trainings and virtual coaching sessions on executive presence. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of nine books, including "Executive Presence." He recently developed a custom strategy for an introverted executive looking to become more commanding, confident, bold and decisive. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and receive the free e-book "41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!" You can also view 75 of Garfinkle's two-minute inspirational video clips at his YouTube channel.