The concept of executive presence, often the subject of debate and discussion, has long been associated with the upper echelons of management. It’s a quality typically linked to middle and senior management, serving as a hallmark of leadership. However, recent discourse has illuminated an intriguing perspective—could employees, not just managers, possess and exhibit this enigmatic trait? As a management graduate, I couldn’t resist delving deeper into this notion. While I won’t embark on an exhaustive exploration of the definition and characteristics of executive presence, there’s ample literature on that subject. Instead, I’d like to explore the intriguing possibility of employees possessing executive presence.
It’s worth noting that many sources consider executive presence among the top five leadership qualities. Its status as a member of the leadership pantheon is widely acknowledged. When dissecting how organizations operate, we can broadly categorize their functions into two domains: design and execution. While there is also an audit domain, it’s somewhat redundant in our present discussion. Design primarily pertains to leadership and creativity, while execution centers on compliance within a given framework.
When we mention employees capable of exhibiting executive presence, we refer to those who enhance and expand the provided framework through originality in their thoughts and ideas, thereby delivering greater value to the organization. However, it’s essential to emphasize that not every employee possesses this quality. In fact, the implication is that the majority of employees don’t naturally exhibit executive presence. Why is this the case? The term “employee” typically conjures an image of someone who adheres unquestioningly to the given framework. The ideal employee is often seen as one who follows instructions blindly. Consequently, an employee with executive presence might not fit the conventional mold of a “good” employee, at least not in theory.
At the core of executive presence lies self-awareness—it’s a quality that cannot coexist with obliviousness. Hence, employees who possess executive presence are likely driven by an internal compulsion to eventually assume leadership roles. They are unlikely to settle for being “loyal” employees content to retire in the same position within the same organization where they were initially appointed. Given these considerations, it seems prudent that if an employee is identified as having an executive presence, they may benefit from career counseling.
In conclusion, the concept of executive presence is evolving beyond traditional boundaries. It challenges the conventional notion of what it means to be an employee by introducing the idea that employees can also possess this distinctive trait associated with leadership. While not every employee may naturally exhibit executive presence, identifying those who do and offering them opportunities for growth and leadership roles could be a strategic move for organizations seeking innovation and fresh perspectives.