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Executive Presence

Hard to Define but Obvious When Missing

By Karen D. Kaufman, MSOD

The phone rings at The Kaufman Partnership and a Vice President of Human Resources is on the line. “We have a talented individual that we want to promote and they have the business skills but they are missing something. Can you help”?   This concern is common — and in board rooms it is often known as E. P.


What is it?

People who hold executive positions are the face and voice of the company. As we have all seen their roles can build or erode an organization’s reputation through visual impact, their spoken image and their conduct. Executive Presence (E.P.) consists of both substance and style and, how they are communicated and perceived in the minds of others. The cultivation of E.P. is both an art and a science. Executive Presence calls for a genuine expression in one’s leadership role and often determines whose career takes off like a rocket, and whose doesn’t.

What is the business case?

Corporate consolidations, mergers and acquisitions require increased responsibility and offer new opportunities from those employed in the new entity. The need to collaborate, find innovative solutions and discover efficiencies requires well developed “people” skills. Many professionals have been technically trained and that simply isn’t enough. The challenge for leaders today is to fully engage others both within traditional structures and across matrixed boundaries so their organization maximizes key talent and achieves business success.

How can increasing Executive Presence address business challenges?

For example, an executive who can deal with ambiguity, adapt to new situations quickly, and diffuse tense situations is a valued asset for their organization. These skill sets once developed can be utilized to increase transparency and open communication as well improve overall organizational performance. Managing reactions is key to creating a positive work environment.

How do you improve Executive Presence?

A professional with the commitment to maximize their executive presence will embark on a journey to increase their self-awareness, receive frank feedback and establish a commitment to life-long development. They will seek candid input from a variety of diverse sources. One cannot improve what they are unaware of — often referred to as “blind spots”. The key step is to learn what others see. This can be achieved in a variety of productive ways. Individuals can ask for a candid conversation with their internal stakeholders, external networks and industry peers. Unfortunately, the reasons that people don’t receive candid feedback is 1) they don’t ask for it and 2) these are difficult conversations to have and 3) once you receive frank feedback it is important that you take steps to improve or people will not give it to you.

Through our comprehensive coaching programs, the Kaufman Partnership will establish the goals of the engagement and interview key stakeholders to ensure the most important goals have been set. Next we use our proprietary Kaufman Impression Management System®, to identify and define the 24 key impression factors that directly impact one’s executive presence. From this data , impression assets and impression needs are revealed and together we can develop an action plan that will reach your desired Executive Presence goals.

Have you asked for candid feedback? How was that experience for you? Did you find yourself defending against or resisting the input? Were you able to listen to it without judgment? Were you successful in using the feedback to make positive changes that others recognized? Did your efforts result in career enhancements? Please tell us how you are doing and let us know if you are interested in learning more.

Don Kaufman – dk@kpartners.com or Karen Kaufman – kk@kpartners.com

4 comments on “Executive Presence”

  1. I just read your latest statement about E P. I have a question, what’s the definition of a stakeholder? Everything else made perfect sence. Love you! K.

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