We are now living in the age of entrepreneurship. Advancements in technology and communication have made it easier than ever to start and grow businesses with little or no budget — you no longer need to be connected, wealthy, or innovative to be an ‘entrepreneur’. One might even say that entrepreneurs are a dime a dozen, these days. But there is still one attribute that every great entrepreneur must have, hone, and perfect, and those who have it are a rare breed. It is the ability to lead, engage, inspire, empathize, and command respect. This is ‘executive presence’.

In new businesses and startups, the need for great leadership is obvious . They are often understaffed, underfunded, and ill-equipt — at best. There needs to be a driving force behind the operation – someone who can rally for the cause. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs and leaders don’t quite make the cut for great, but rather adequate. Rather than executive presence they have professional presence — and the gap between the two is the gap between humans and monkeys.

What Is Executive Presence?

Executive presence is not something easily definable, but you’ve undoubtedly met people that fit the description. They are the person that always knows what to say without offending others, even in regard to sensitive topics. Someone with executive presence is both compassionate and confident. Their authenticity is not without courage, and their humility does not compromise their ability to inspire. The greatest and most memorable leaders have this quality to them. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, JFK, and Steve Jobs are all examples of what executive presence looks like.

How Does One Achieve Executive Presence?

This is not something that can be attained overnight. Developing executive presence is the result of careful analysis, self reflection, development of one’s authentic self, and sincere concern for those around you. However, there is an easy place to start. The path to becoming a great and inspiring leader begins with developing and honing professional presence. Someone with professional presence still embodies many of the skills and attributes of one with executive presence, albeit with less charisma. They are still a respected leader, one who is notoriously dependable, trustworthy, and professional. They may not change the world, but they get the job done. Everyone can develop a professional presence and, in many instances, an executive presence. The path to this begins with asking yourself:

1. What words do others use to describe you?

2. What words do you think accurately describe you?

3. Are there conflicts between your view and others’ views?

4. What are the strengths of your current brand?

5. What are the areas you need to improve?

6. What are the things you can begin doing now to enhance your current brand?

It is through carefully examining how you are perceived and how you actually treat others, that your are able to develop the skills of professional presence — and further, executive presence. This requires stepping outside of yourself and out of your comfort zone, but it is worth doing so to be the best leader you can be.