How to Build a Great Executive Brand

In business, no man or woman obtains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal or develops a significant following without a combination of poise, authenticity and confidence in their abilities.

That combination of poise, authenticity and confidence is the foundation of what is referred to as “executive brand.”

Needless to say, having a presence (i.e. brand) that conveys confidence and capability is an absolute precondition for success.

Regardless of whether you’re a banker, a sales professional, musician or recruiter, how you present yourself matters enormously.

Impeccable Image is Imperative to Executive Branding

Contrary to popular belief, executive presence has little to do with performance (directly speaking).

Rather, it’s a measure of image; whether you give off the impression to others that you have what it takes.

Variables such as walk, clothing, set of the individual’s shoulders, dress and facial expression contribute to (or deduct from) how colleagues and bosses perceive a person.

That brings us to what author Sylvia Ann Hewlett describes as the three pillars of executive presence:

1. How you look (appearance)

2. How you speak (communication)

3. How you act (gravitas)

Defining Gravitas 

Out of the three variables listed above, most executives believe that gravitas is the core characteristic of building an executive brand.

Without gravitas, one won’t be branded as a leader.

As opposed to what many may believe, gravitas has more to do with executive branding than just being the smartest guy or gal in the room.

Gravitas, according to over 62% of leaders, is what signals to the world that an individual has the ability to get things done.

In sum, gravitas consists of 6 variables:

1. Composure during a crisis (i.e. grace under fire)

2. Decisiveness and showing teeth

3. Integrity and speaking the truth to power

4. Possessing emotional intelligence

5. Reputation

6. Vision

On the flip side, things such as lack of integrity, sexual impropriety, flip-flopping, inflated ego, and off-color or racially insensitive jokes greatly undermine one’s ability to be perceived as a competent, confident leader.

Communicating with Authority

Similar to gravitas, a key component of presenting oneself like an executive involves being able to command a room and command the audience’s attention.

Much of this rests on one’s tone of voice, body language and eye contact.

Eye Contact and Communication

Eye contact matters enormously.  Being able to make eye contact with co-workers, superiors and a general audience proves to have a transformative effect.

According to Hewlett, it is the foundation of one’s ability to connect and inspire.

Being able to maintain eye contact entails knowing the content cold, which in turn requires extensive preparation and practice.

Appearance and Authority

It’s well known that individuals size up a person’s confidence, credibility and friendliness based simply on appearance.

According to a Harvard Medical School study, they do so within 250 milliseconds.

The same study also found that grooming and polish were chosen as more important than physical attractiveness.

Therefore, we can conclude that cultivating an appearance that conveys authority has little to do with what someone was born with, as far as looks. Rather, what they do with what they are given is more crucial.

In the End

Cultivating a brand that commands respect and instills confidence in others can be onerous. Just like anything else in life, it requires discipline and vision.

Additionally, being perceived as an executive entails surrounding yourself with people who are better than you, giving credit where credit is due, showing humility, smiling, as well as empowering others through showing them how to gain an executive presence.

Putting in the necessary work (i.e. overcoming the struggles) in order to be able to brand yourself like an executive will foster heightened success, heightened pay and, ultimately a more fulfilling life.


[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

By Ken Sundheim

Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement, a sales and marketing executive search firm based out of New York City. He is also a writer for Forbes. Follow Ken on Twitter @Ken_Sundheim.