NEW Research: The Three Keys to Executive Presence


What would you say if you were asked to name the most important attribute of Executive Presence (EP)?

According to research cited in the 2014 book ‘Executive Presence’ by Sylvia Hewlett, CEO of the Centre for Talent Innovation (CTI), EP turns out to be a dynamic mix of three things. According to a survey of 4000 university-educated professionals including 268 senior executives surveyed, EP is a combination of:

The way you act (Gravitas)

The way you speak (Communication)

The way you look (Appearance)

It turns out that these three attributes were not at all considered equally important.  The survey determined to crack the code on EP found that 67% of the senior executives cited gravitas as the most important factor, followed by 28% voting on communication skills as the most important, and 5% voting on appearance as the most important EP factors.

Here’s a quick checklist of these Executive Presence attributes. Which ones do you have and which ones do you need to work on?


  1. Confidence and ‘grace under fire’
  2. Decisiveness & ‘showing teeth’
  3. Integrity & ‘speaking truth to power’
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. Reputation & standing
  6. Vision/ Charisma


  1. Superior speaking skills
  2. Ability to command a room
  3. Forcefulness and assertiveness
  4. Ability to read a client/ a boss/ a room
  5. Sense of humour/ ability to banter
  6. Body language/ posture


  1. Being polished and groomed
  2. Physically attractive, fit
  3. Simple, stylish clothes that position you for the next job
  4. Being tall (fortunately only 6% of the appearance mix!)
  5. Being youthful and vigorous

Here's a tip to help your confidence or 'gravitas' when you're in a challenging communication situation.  Exhale fully, and then inhale slowly and deeply while you repeat your 'personal brand' statement to yourself:  For example, "I am clear and confident, and I have a strong leadership presence."   Sit up or stand up with relaxed but erect posture, and continue to breathe deeply and slowly while you engage in your conversation or presentation, taking your time.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about  'Executive Presence'. What do you think are the most challenging aspects to master? Anything to add?

Sally Mabelle, ‘The Voice of Leadership’ Specialist.  -  Inspiring clear, confident, and connected communication for personal and cultural transformation.