The importance of executive presence for leaders has finally gained a foothold. Always understood as that intangible difference between top leaders and wannabe’s, executive presence is, simply put, a present moment skill. It is a leader’s ability to remain light-hearted, calm yet clear and courageous in difficult situations. The impact is immediate and respect is quickly earned.

Executive Presence is the leader who voices the unspoken feelings in a room that suddenly hears bad news – a lost account, a fired colleague, a failed project, a major mistake by someone who perhaps should have known better. It is the leader who self-discloses easily yet feels no need to be in the limelight.

Success in business demands a strong ego with vision and persistence. Yet true presence is most notable for the absence of ego. Ego is about self. Presence is about others. It reveals itself in how a leader listens, and the choices a leader makes to risk supporting someone else, putting his or her own neck at risk. Such leaders are admired yet may also be disdained. Strong egos look down on the humble. Thus, one must have great inner strength to develop executive presence in a blustery world that wants results today.

The path to executive presence is to learn how to be present – fully focused on the here and the now. My friend Dan Trommater is a leadership speaker and magician. His skills mesmerize audiences and in those moments, each person is fully present. The question is, can you be that present in the heat of the moment? That is when your “presence” is challenged. When we feel heat, pressure, discomfort and awkwardness, we can quickly lose our presence. We become partially absent – wishing the present moment would hurriedly depart. Thus, our lack of presence is revealed in our stiffness, our silence, our awkward choice of words.

For leaders looking to further their career and business success, the solution is a paradox. You must intentionally put yourself in uncomfortable situations but armed with an awareness of how to overcome your discomfort. One such set of tools is described in my first book published in 2002, What’s Important Now. To learn more, go to