2004, one term senator and one speech and history was forever altered. Barack Obama at all of 43 was young to be running for the office. As he stepped up the podium, little may he have realized that this one speech would change his future and that of the worlds. That 4 years from now, he would not only be running for the President but would go on to become the first African-American President of the United States of America. And would also be reelected for a second term.
He went on to speak for 17 minutes, interrupted 33 times by the audience’s applause. Roughly 9.1 million people were reported to have watched The Democratic Convention which was only about half the audience who regularly tuned in for regularly scheduled summer programming.
The MSNBC host Chris Matthews after the speech, admitted, "I have to tell you, a little chill in my legs right now. That is an amazing moment in history right there. It is surely an amazing moment. A keynoter like I have never heard."
What did Barack Obama do? What made him the person who became a household name over night? Who went on to be one of the most beloved Presidents of the country?The answer may also lie in his presence.
Presence has always shaped history Presence has always made a difference. It has defined battles. It has altered political stories. It was the presence of Sir Martin Luther King that swayed people to follow him against the apartheid. It was the presence of Mahatma Gandhi’s that inspired the nation to fight peacefully.
What is executive presence? According to Forbes, executive presence is “the ability to project gravitas – confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness” as well as “communication – including speaking skills, assertiveness and the ability to read an audience or situation – and appearance.”It is a blend of temperament, competency, and skills that, when combined, demonstrates the judgment to make the right decisions. Executive presence is connecting to your audience, building credibility and inspiring action out of them.
Presence is the link between success and merit According to a study conducted in 2012 by The Center for Talent Innovation, 268 senior executive participants said executive presence contributes 26% to career advancement. One of their conclusions was that executive presence is the link between merit and success.
Drivers of executive presence To understand executive presence better, one needs to understand the drivers of executive presence. The three drivers, often known as the pillars, of executive presence are Gravitas, Executive Messaging and Appearance.
Gravitas may be translated variously as weight, seriousness, dignity and depth of personality. It is also a sense of responsibility and commitment to the task. It was one of the important set of virtues that the Romans established more than two thousand years ago. It was the virtue of leadership that included the sense of importance of the task, responsibility and earnestness. In today’s world it is very important for a leader to have gravitas. A leader should be trustworthy. He should have a vision and should have the skills to clearly communicate this vision to his employees and inspire them to work towards it.
Executive messaging is the ability to connect craft and deliver messages direct and clear with no ambiguity. These messages could either be verbal or could be non-verbal. People with a higher executive presence know what is important and are able to structure their messages to deliver what is important clearly. They are also able to navigate difficult messages effectively without diluting the message or breaking a relation.
Appearance is the third driver of executive presence. In a study done in the university of Chicago by Professor Albert Mehrabian’s, personal appearance makes 55% impact on the first impression. According to a study, 60% of the CEOs in the United States are over 6ft even though only 15% of the population exceeds the height.
Executive presence is a skill Although the height factor of appearance cannot be controlled or altered, other factors can be. Executive presence is not something we are born with. Though some may be born in a more enabling environment, it is a skill. Like every skill it can be built and nurtured.Every time a person speaks, they generate an impact. A higher presence helps in deliver this impact effectively. For people who therefore want to influence be it in business, professional or personal life, investing in this skill may make a significant difference.
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