The 5 Best Books on Executive Presence for Unrivalled Performance

Searching for the best books on executive presence?

If you’re looking to make a professional impact and want to learn how to carry yourself at work, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll examine the best books for achieving the kind of career impact you desire.

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But first, let’s take a look at what this mysterious art actually is. 

What is executive presence?

Executive presence is a combination of elements that allows an individual to inspire action in others. It blends traits such as charisma, confidence and gravitas to create a circle of influence and develop social capital.

Why is it so important?

Achieving anything in life generally requires a degree of cooperation.

Being able to work effectively with others and convince them to share your vision is essential in making progress on big goals. 

Leaders are well aware of this, and to create a thriving organization often requires a huge investment in their personal development skills.

And these are skills that would-be leaders can utilize in their own career development.

If you want to secure a promotion or gain respect at work, executive presence can be broken down into its constituent parts and practiced.

In so doing, you’ll notice that colleagues begin to pay more attention to your suggestions and ideas and are naturally drawn to you for problem-solving and decision-making.

Progress within your job and company can be fast-tracked in this way as you benefit from better relationships with coworkers.

How does it work?

Humans, at heart, thrive on hierarchies.

From an evolutionary standpoint, ever since our caveman days, we learned to assess for competence, pick a leader and place our faith in them to increase our own chances of survival. 

This assessment generally happens in an instant, almost subconsciously and these same mechanisms have remained with us throughout history, from the Savannah to the boardroom.

This blend of primitive psychology is as important today as it was when we were fighting for survival, at least if you want to secure your position and make progress in your career.

First impressions have a lasting effect. Being regarded as a reliable, valuable member of your team ensures respect and protection from threats.

In this way, you can better persuade, motivate and inspire others to collaborate on your aims.

How can I develop it?

Well, reading this book list will certainly help. Otherwise, there are personality traits you can work on the develop the pre-requisite skills. 

  • Dressing the part
  • Keeping good posture
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Speaking with confidence
  • Being present
  • Active listening
  • Consulting
  • Delegating 

How to measure it

After working on the skills above and reading the best books on executive presence below, you might be wondering how to measure the effect.

Unfortunately like any social skills that require complex cues and dynamics, it can be hard to gauge the impact. However, here are a few pointers.

  • Do you feel more respected at work?
  • Are your suggestions readily accepted and acted upon by colleagues?
  • Is your team more motivated?
  • Do colleagues actively engage with you and share their challenges?

Best books on executive presence

1. Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success by Sylvia Hewlett

Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success by Sylvia Hewlett

Based on a nationwide survey of college graduates working across a range of sectors and occupations, this title provides a unique insight into a dark art. By utilizing a blend of appearance, communication and gravitas, you can affect the trajectory of your career. This boils down to investing in your appearance, communication and manner. The book contains a lot of anecdotes, which might not please readers seeking a more scientific basis for EP and the first half of the book is arguably more actionable than the second.

2. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

This is a wonderful book to get an overall feel for what it means to be a leader. And rather than requiring a designated position, all that’s needed to gain influence is to simply lead with purpose and put your people first. Sinek describes the best organizations as those that have created a ‘Circle of Safety’ protecting those inside from external challenges. Although some might feel the text is too anecdotal, it will make you think differently about your own behavior, which is key. Check out the video below for a quick introduction:

3. Gravitas by Caroline Goyder

Gravitas by Caroline Goyder

Gravitas is arguably a large part of executive presence, a significant portion of which stems from good communication. This book will arm you with the psychological skills for more effective public speaking, whether that’s for a speech, in the boardroom or simply chatting to a colleague. It provides seven principles, simple exercises and a toolkit for use in different situations. See below for the author’s TEDx talk to get a flavor for the book:

4. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Joseph Grenny et al.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Joseph Grenny et al.

Another book on communication, which is perfect for dealing with tough conversations both professionally and in your personal life. The advice provided should help you become a more attentive listener and better negotiator, hallmarks of successful leaders. Initiating constructive dialogue is essential for any kind of rapport and progress, even during difficult subjects. Crucial Conversations is good on theory, but some readers might find practical exercises somewhat lacking.

5. Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern & Kathy Lubar

Drawing on their experience as performing artists, these authors outline the importance of presence for leaders as well as actors. Developing this type of magnetism can serve to unite a fragmented audience and forge a community. The core tenet of the book is that, rather than being an innate talent, this kind of presence can indeed be cultivated.

Executive coaching

Many of the skills mentioned in this article can be developed through executive coaching, which is a service we offer through Bloomsoup.

As well as defining career direction and purpose, we can work on the interpersonal attributes needed to thrive in the workplace.

Click here for more best books and recommended reads.