How to develop Executive Presence to Enhance Your Career

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Reflection Guide for New Professionals

Ellen A. Ensher, Ph.D.

Professor of Management

Loyola Marymount University


In the working world, it can be hard to establish credibility as a newly minted professional. One way to do this is to consider how you can leverage style to present your best professional self at work and focus on developing your executive presence.

executive presenceWhat is Executive Presence? Executive presence is about having a combination of qualities that that communicates that you are competent and in charge in a way that is appealing to others. Think about the last time you walked into a crowded networking event- could you pick out the power brokers without being introduced? People with executive presence exude success seem to have an intangible “it” factor. If we deconstruct the “it” factor in Executive presence a big part of that is how one leverages fashion, style, and appearance to make an impression. We are interested in having our LMU students start developing their Executive Presence early on. A great way to practice this is start developing your own approach for developing Executive Presence for professional networking events, class presentations, and of course interviews.

How to develop Executive Presence

1)     Check out this YouTube clip itself ( which features economist and best-selling business author, Sylvia Hewlett, discussing her research findings on how to develop executive presence. You can read more about these ideas in her book:Executive Presence or by visiting her website at

2)     Watch the YouTube clip  ( )from our recent on-campus event (April, 2014): Dress Code Decoded: Style Your Way to Success. (you may want to fast forward through the introductions and start at about 8 minutes in) For this event, we brought in Eva Sippel, a Hollywood stylist ( and enlisted the help of our LMU student from the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and the LMU HRM student organization to serve as models. For this event, Eva provides direction for dressing for interviews, for business casual, and evening business formal events for both conservative and non-traditional organizational settings.

Reflection Questions:

1)     Hewlett found that Executive Presence is composed of: gravitas, communication skills, and appearance. What do you think? Is this true in your experience? What other qualities do you think compose Executive Presence?

2)     Think of someone that you have encountered professionally (such as a boss, a family friend, a professor, or a parent) that you think has Executive Presence. What is this person’s style of dress like and how do they exude EP?

3)     Consider the LMU Dresscode Decoded event. What is your reaction to Eva’s advice regarding what to wear for interviews? What will you wear for your next interview or presentation? What do you have in your wardrobe that works and what do you need to obtain? Make a professional shopping list for yourself.

4)     What mistakes style-wise have you seen other professionals make when they have made presentations or attended networking events?

5)     Consider my recent blog post on getting a style mentor ( Who are some people that you know or admire either in person on or TV whose style you would like to emulate? Who are your inspirational style mentors and why?

6)     What do you think business casual means in an industry that you work in? How can you convey EP when dressing business casual?