Executive Presence: Developing Confidence

How does an executive go about developing confidence?   I’m not referring to the bravado that’s often displayed by executives and leaders who have attained a certain level of success that sometimes leads to behaviors, both professional and personal, that fail to inspire an organization.  I’m referring to the quiet confidence that comes from congruence between who you are and how you lead.

There are few institutions who develop leaders as successfully as the United States Armed Forces.  Military leaders must practice and display fourteen leadership qualities expected of an officer, whether commissioned or non-commissioned, to remain in the service.

1.  Bearing is the way you carry and conduct yourself.  It’s more than the stereotypical picture of a military officer standing at attention in a flawless uniform.  It’s remembering that, as an executive, you are always “on”.

In your position as an executive, not only are people constantly watching you, some believe if they emulate you they will also be successful.  Anyone who’s a parent knows that when someone emulates your behavior they are not necessarily selecting the moments when your bearing was what you would like to have emulated.

Understanding your stress behaviors and planning your reactions is one method of improving your executive bearing.

2.   Courage is having the strength to do and say what you believe to be right.  It’s toughest to be brave when it counts the most and you’re not in the majority.

3.  Decisiveness is the willingness to make a decision.  As a new second lieutenant, my commander, Roger Brown, used to instruct his officers: “Make a decision – even if it’s wrong.  I can always change a bad decision.  I can’t change no decision at all.

4.  Dependability is not only doing what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it.  It’s also consistently doing the best you can, given the resources you have available, and not making any excuses.

5.  Endurance is having the mental and physical stamina to do what you need to do.  To have endurance you have to take care of yourself physically and mentally by living a balanced life that allows enough time for you to get the rest you need and have some balance in your life.

6.  Enthusiasm is having and displaying sincere interest in what you’re doing.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to motivate anyone else if you hate what you’re doing.

7.  Initiative is taking action when it needs to be taken and continually looking for ways to do things better.  It’s also reaching out to someone who’s not making the grade and finding out how you can help.

8.  Integrity is not only being honest in what you do or say, it also includes having a personal code of ethics that you follow.  Your ethics should be non-negotiable.

9.  Judgment is exercising your ability to logically think things through and weigh the implications of each decision you make and action you take.  The ability to exercise good judgment grows when you take the time to review, not only the things that went right, but the things that went wrong and to figure out how to do it better the next time.

10.  Justice is considering all sides of a sides of an issue, then being consistent and fair in meting out rewards, recognition, or penalties.

11.  Knowledge is attaining the required skills and background necessary to fulfill your responsibilities and understanding how to apply it.

12.  Loyalty means you are dedicated to the company and its goals, to the people who are part of that company, and to the clients and customers you serve, as well as being loyal to your family and community.

13.  Tact is the ability to say what you need to say in a professional manner.  In eastern cultures they often use the concept of “face” and believe it’s essential to allow someone to save face when they’re presented with any detrimental or negative information.

14.  Unselfishness means you do not profit at the expense of others.  In business this often means ensuring recognition is given to others for their contributions.

By working to develop these qualities military officers behave in a way that’s consistent with who they want to be.  Consistently practicing behaviors that are congruent with our values develops confidence and confidence is one underlying principal of executive presence.

Published by Leah Ward-Lee

Leah Ward-Lee, the author of "$1,000 Start-Ups", is a serial micro-entrepreneur. She opened her first business at ten after lobbying for and receiving a shoe shine kit for Christmas. She pulled her wagon through the neighborhood, going door-to-door, offering to shine her neighbor’s shoes for twenty-five cents a pair. Once her wagon was full, she took the shoes home and polished them. Unfortunately that business was short-lived. She hadn’t tagged the shoes and couldn’t remember whose shoes were whose, so her dad went with her to retrace the route until every pair was returned. Since then she’s had businesses developing and teaching college courses, instructing aerobic classes, owning half a plane that was rented to a flight and maintenance school, and renting homes. She’s also owned a consignment store, a gift shop, a gift basket business, a consulting firm, hosted The Executive Toolbox (a weekly radio show), and a publishing company. She also spent twenty years in the US Army, served as the Chief Information and Technical Officer for two major insurance companies, and has a second career as a management consultant. Leah resides in Dallas, TX and on Amelia Island with Sammy and Goliath, her two rescue dogs.


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