‘Executive Presence’: = / > ‘Charisma’?

In a recent blog, I defined executive presence as ‘that hard-to-define, but immediately recognizable quality that makes certain leaders stand-out – often by their mere presence. It’s far more than image. Image is one component, but not the primary one. It has little to do with content or technical knowledge, and it has everything to do with communications, leadership and credibility. Executive presence is essentially the way a leader projects emotional intelligence….”

The primary attributes that are essential to executive presence were listed. Here’s the link to the article including the list of attributes: Executive Presence

One person asked why charisma isn’t on the list and another emphatically insisted that it should be. Here’s my response:

The word charisma is often used to refer to a public figure such as a politician, celebrity, guru or evangelist with a compelling ‘charm’, or a mesmerizing magnetic appeal that may even lead to obsessive devotion from followers. The term is often used to describe a quality that may be authentic, but is just as often a social ‘mask’.

My take on it:

  • A leader with executive presence is typically perceived as ‘charismatic’ to some degree, even if their style is not over-the-top enthusiastic and energized.
  • A charismatic leader may or not have true executive presence, and may or may not be authentic. The ‘charismatic’ leader who is disingenuous, who talks a good game but rarely follows through, who publicly professes to care about people, but whose actions don’t reflect that commitment causes distrust and often a toxic culture.

That’s why I didn’t include charisma on the list of qualities shared by leaders with true executive presence. Agree? Disagree? Share your opinions and ideas!

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