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Executive Presence in a Virtual World: What Matters Now

Executive Presence: What You Need Now For Influence And Impact

With more of us working in a virtual environment what it means to have an executive presence is changing along with everything else. What matters most right now? Tips for upgrading your executive presence in a virtual world.

What is Executive Presence?

“Karin and David, my boss just told me that the reason I’m not in box 9 of our talent strategy is that I’m not viewed as having enough ‘executive presence.’ But when I asked her what that means, she told me I should ‘act more executive.’ Seriously! What do I do with that?”

We receive that call, or one just like it, a few times a month. And, this is not new. It’s been happening for years. People use the term “executive presence” to mean anything from strategic influence to carrying “the right” purse (sigh).

When we get underneath what this ACTUALLY means, it’s usually one of these competencies that could use some work.

Core Competencies


  • Influence and Relationships: Are you seen as a trusted advisor?
  • Confidence and Composure: Do you believe in who you are and what you have to say?
  • Communication: Can you clearly and concisely articulate your point of view?
  • Grace under pressure: Do you freak out when things go wrong or take productive action?
  • Energy: Do you engage others in ways that inspire confidence and hope?
  • Physical Image: Do you look “put together” and ready to make an impact (of course this one’s the most subjective and the most dangerous for unconscious bias).


What Hasn’t Changed?

In this virtual world filled with so much turmoil and unrest, some core components of executive presence remain the same, and if anything, have become more vital.

1. Influence and Relationships

It’s not just who you run into in the cafeteria anymore or the guys you can go have a beer with. In a virtual world, we have to be even more deliberate in nurturing genuine relationships and cultivating influence.

And in many cases, virtual water coolers are democratizing access and the truly influential are getting their day.

If you want to increase your virtual executive presence be deliberate with whom you spend your time. Reach out and schedule some virtual coffees with your peers in other departments. Understand other people’s challenges. Notice and thank the unsung heroes making the work happen every day.

One of the best ways to be influential is to be interested.

2. Grace under Pressure

If there’s anything this last year has given us, it’s plenty of stress and pressure. And for many of us, the work and home stress blend into one big cocktail of opportunity to practice our poise.

Work to become a beacon of calm amid chaos. Stress amplifies as it rolls downhill. If you want more executive presence learn how to slow the roll.

3. Communication

If there was ever a moment that clear, compelling, and concise messaging matters to get past clutter, it’s now.

If you want to up your executive presence work on streamlining your executive communication, checking for understanding, and communicating important messages five times, five different ways.

What’s Different About Executive Presence in a Virtual World?

Things that matter more than ever …

4. Showing Up Real

When it comes to influence and impact, we’re noticing a significant shift towards vulnerability as a credibility builder.

It’s the leaders who say, “I know this is hard. It’s hard for me too, and here’s why. And I care about all of us and the work we are doing. Let’s figure this out together,” (and really mean it) who are changing the game.

5. Confident Humility During Uncertainty

No one has written the definitive book on how to lead well during a pandemic, massive social unrest, and a wacky economy. Most of us have been on a fast pivot to transform not just how we work, but what we’re working on.

Executive presence in this new reality means navigating this uncertainty with confident humility—deciding with incomplete information AND staying nimble if you need to change your mind.

6. Managing Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication with Poise

You gain huge credibility by becoming an artful virtual communicator. Paying close attention to your remote meeting etiquette (e.g. showing up on time, managing your mute button, looking directly at the camera) is a great start. It’s also helpful to master the art of using the right channel for the right message—and knowing the difference between being informal and sloppy.

See Also: Lead Remote Meetings That Get Results and Build Relationships

7. Managing Your Surroundings

The good news is, no one can see your shoes. (Don’t even get Karin started about the boss that told her she should go spend several thousand dollars on shoes to up her executive presence—and no she didn’t follow that advice).

But they can see the clutter on your desk, the bad lighting, and the weird virtual green screen that makes your head disappear whenever you move.

Take a look at how your office shows up in the Zoom view. Do you like what your surroundings say about you?

The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to improve your executive presence in a virtual world—which will make a difference for your influence and impact.


How Do I Improve My Executive Presence?

  • Look for opportunities to be a trusted advisor.
  • Believe in who you are, even under pressure to do the contrary.
  • Clearly and concisely articulate your point of view.
  • Take productive action and make good decisions.
  • Engage others in ways that inspire confidence and hope.
  • Put it all together and be ready to make an impact.

See also:

How to Develop Charisma in a Virtual World

Your Executive Presence – an Interview with Hilary Blair

Check Out These Other Topics

leading virtual and hybrid teams
building great team cultures
practical leadership skills
leadership training