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Lessons on Presence from Oprah, Jeter and Springsteen

12-17-2014

What exactly is “executive presence?” Sylvia Ann Hewlett says in her new book on the topic that it’s a “measure of image—a dynamic mix of gravitas (how you act), communication (how you speak) and appearance (how you look).” Seems like an easy formula – act confident, speak well and dress up. The only problem is that doing those things does not instantly give you great presence. The best, most respected, leaders possess so much more than that.

Presence is not just about the wow factor. But what really gives you the aura of executive presence in the eyes of your clients and coworkers? It is a complicated question that doesn’t have just one right answer.

 1.       Show you’re like everyone else – like Oprah.

Those with the greatest presence exhibit authenticity. A brilliant, self-made billionaire, Oprah still relates to everyone else and never comes across as “I am superstar talk show host Oprah and you are beneath me.” She’s an everyday woman who cares about others.

Throughout her career, she listened intently and gave advice that was thoughtful and thorough. She built her brand and let her executive presence shine through, not by being louder than others, not by being smarter than others, but by being a great listener who related to others.

 2.       Avoid the drama – like Derek Jeter.

Those with the greatest presence don’t get involved in all the hoopla. Jeter was well-liked by the fans and media, not only because of what he did, but because of what he didn’t do. He hardly ever got involved in controversy. He stayed far away from the gossip columns. The magnifying glass was always on him, waiting for him to make a mistake, say the wrong thing, or get caught with the wrong crowd. He remained relatively under the radar and out of the limelight except for what he was greatest at, baseball. And that, without a doubt, added to his allure.

3.       Create a team that makes you look great – like Bruce Springsteen.

Those with the greatest presence don’t go at it alone. Springsteen has been backed on and off stage by the E-Street Band since 1972. Their energy is legendary and their concerts are often considered some of the best live performances in the history of rock. They are brilliant musicians and together the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. Bruce always knew this to be true and attributes much of his success to his team.

Executive presence isn’t created overnight. It doesn’t happen organically. It happens after you become aware of what you have to do and put it into practice.

Learn from the masters. Listen intently and relate to your audience to make them feel like you are one of them, like Oprah. Focus on your goals and stay away from the drama, like Derek Jeter. And finally, build a team of superstars who make you look great, like Bruce Springsteen.

Happy Holidays!

All the best,

Rachel Lamb - Exec|Comm consultant

Exec|Comm
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