HCI Research: Executive Presence, Desired But Ill-Defined

hci logoTo develop a clearer perspective on executive presence, Human Capital Institute asked HR professionals to define executive presence and indicate what knowledge, skills, abilities, and characteristics are important for its meaning. Their study found that executive presence is the combination of three key factors: interpersonal aptitude, professional affect, and technical competence. In sum, it is how you interact with people, how you present yourself, and what you know.

Interpersonal Aptitude is the ability to relate to and connect with others. For example, a survey respondent describes an individual with executive presence as, “Someone that consistently models the behavior they want to see in others. This person is focused on people and has a lot of emotional intelligence.”

Professional Affect is how a person shows up in a situation and appears to others. This response in our survey articulates professional affect: “We define executive presence as perceiving an individual to have substance and authority, being capable, trustworthy, and ‘in charge’ and inspiring followers. Executive presence is how you present yourself to highlight your talent, your knowledge, and skill.”

Technical Competence is applying knowledge and skills to deliver results. As one respondent wrote, “Executive presence connotes a spectrum of knowledge of the current industry plus some experience of other pertinent industries.”


How important are these knowledge, skills, and abilities to the way your organization defines executive presence?

(five-point scale, percentage very and extremely important.)

FIGURE 7 from HCI report. 


The research validates that a combination of good communication skills, high emotional connection with people, a solid understanding of the business combined with an ability to articulate strategy, is necessary for effective leadership. Executive presence is not simply defined by your technical skills. Leaders must also be Versatile, Agile, Resilient and Emotionally Intelligent. TRACOM’s soft skills programs build these Social Intelligence skills that drive success in the workplace and build effective leaders.

Click here to read the full report.