Top 6 Leadership Communication Skills for Executive Presence

Leadership-Communication   Sylvia Ann Hewlett from CTI (Center for Talent Innovation) writes in Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success that surveys of senior leaders report these top six communication traits are key for leaders:

  1. Superior speaking skills: for men 63%, women 60%
  2. Ability to command a room: for men, 54%, women 49%
  3. Forcefulness and assertiveness: for men 48%, for women 48%
  4. Ability to read a client/a boss/a room: men, 33%, women 39%
  5. Sense of humor and ability to banter: men 35%, women 33%
  6. Body language/posture: man 25%, women 21%

In other words, out of all the traits that confer executive presence, superior speaking skills mark you as a leader. All six of these behaviors contribute to how powerfully you connect with an audience, how quickly you engage with listeners, and how well you can keep their attention.

This isn’t only applicable to presentations. No matter your position in the company, you are always presenting. When you write an email to your boss, make a casual comment in the hallways, or pitch a client, you’re conveying who you are and how much authority is your due. Every verbal encounter is an opportunity to reinforce your presence as a leader.

A 2012 analysis by Quantified Impressions of 120 financial spokespersons found that what makes a speaker persuasive are the following elements:

  • Passion 27%
  • Voice quality 23%
  • Presence 15%
  • Content 15%

There isn’t anything on this list about data or your Power Point slides. It’s all about how well you engage people on an emotional level.

What Are Your Verbal Tics?

You may not realize it, but you have verbal tics. These are habits we’ve developed over the years. Most of them go unnoticed until we’re up on the podium. Stress seems to exaggerate our verbal tics. Tics may be certain phrases we revert to ad nauseum: “basically,” “the bottom line,” “you know,” “outside the box,” are common. But so are um’s and ah’s and raising the voice at the end of a sentence as if to ask for approval or a question.

Sometimes people don’t tell you or give you good feedback on this because they don’t notice themselves. And it’s difficult to let people know your voice sucks. But these verbal cues can all be adjusted. Anyone can improve their communication skills.

I don’t think you should wait for an important speech before working on your voice and communication skills. Get a coach or a mentor who’s willing to be brutally honest. After all, it worked for King George VI in The King’s Speech, it can work for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.


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