Michael Sterling

Your Career Depends on These – 11 Qualities for Success

11 Aspects of Executive Presence


So let’s say you’ve just been passed over for promotion to a leadership position. You hear you almost got the job but the other guy got it because of “his strong executive presence.”


You think you know what they’re talking about but all the same, you don’t feel it was right. Nevertheless, rather than grumble and complain and try to figure out what you need to do differently next time, you call in an executive coach. In my last article, You Need Executive Presence – Here’s Why, I introduced how presence is imperative to achieving success. But, what attributes make up executive presence?


Let’s just say you call on my firm – SterlingFreeman to inquire about how I might be able to help. Here’s what I’d explain to you about presence:


The qualities associated with executive presence can be difficult to learn and practice. It may prove impossible to develop them without the help of qualified coaches and mentors. You can work on and improve some of these competencies, but even then, they may evade certain personalities with ingrained habits.


Most people aren’t born with executive presence. They develop the requisite skills with experience, maturity and a great deal of effort.


One important caveat: Don’t confuse executive presence with speaking or presentation skills. They’re part of the total package, but presence is what you project wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.


Your challenge lies in managing others’ perceptions of you, which is no small task. If we were to work together, we’d look at your personality, your behaviors, your interactions with others, and your communication habits.


11 Qualities for Success


  1. Transparency: Genuine, open, straightforward, comfortable in one’s skin. Aims for truth and clarity, even when difficult issues arise. Doesn’t try to please or cover up with spin.
  2. Passion: Loves and feels strongly about the profession, job, industry and life in general. Sees and believes in optimism.
  3. Clarity: Communicates thoughts, feelings and insights with crystal clarity and simplicity. Master of metaphors and stories that make an impact.
  4. Intelligence: The ability to process, retain and apply information, whether it’s academic or street-worthy.
  5. Pattern Recognition: The ability to boil down complex factors and mounds of data to rare conclusions. Offers insights others may not see.
  6. Results-Oriented: Driven and full of purpose; determined to achieve and succeed. Able to discern dichotomies, unravel paradoxes and work with uncertainties. Flexible and willing to adjust goals. Decisive under pressure. A bias toward action. An attitude of giving, rather than getting. Works in the service of common goals for the organization’s and society’s higher values.
  7. Confidence: Not overconfident; has enough self-doubt to be objective. Asks questions and listens.
  8. Humility: Willing to admit mistakes, misjudgments, fears and uncertainties in ways that are endearing. Seeks answers and advice; listens to others.
  9. Courage: Willing to take risks and positions against considerable odds. May be seen as a maverick. Able to perceive possibilities and innovations.
  10. Humor: Not over-the-top, but in the right measure to disarm others’ defenses.
  11. Social: Genuinely cares about others; sees both strengths and weaknesses in people. Allows for people to learn from mistakes. Promotes healthy self-esteem in others. Respects others and shows a real—not manufactured or superficial—interest in them.


Keep in mind that no single leader possesses all 11 qualities for success in abundance. For example, many successful CEOs with strong executive presence lack one or more of the likeability factors, such as humor and humility, but they make up for it in other domains.


That’s a lot of things to work on, but I would expect that you already shine in many of these aspects. We’d probably look at a few assessments, then pick a couple of areas where you need improvement, and work out a way to practice both in sessions with me and in your daily interactions.


Of all these 11 qualities for success, which one do you know you could use help with? What would others tell you about this? Leave a comment. I welcome your thoughts.



Career Wellness


As a career coach and recruiter, exclusive to public accounting, I help professionals find career success. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website.


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