with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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This week's topic comes from a subscriber request but also happens to be one of the most common questions I get from clients.

How to master true executive presence.

Presence and gravitas is something that so many individuals are seeking.Why? Well, when I think of people that have truly had presence they are have such charisma, they’re enigmatic…there is something in the ether, their spirit seems different to everyone else, like it expands to fill the room.

People that master true presence are magnetic and in demand. Others line up to spend time with them and their cut-through to find key insights and get the job done is revered by those around around them. 


I read an article on Business Insider recently that said presence took 5 steps: Good posture, eye contact, volume, offer your opinion and confront others respectfully. My eyes almost popped out of my head. Sure this might make everyone notice that you’re present in the room but it in no way means you have any ‘presence’ or ‘gravitas’.

True presence is a state of mind that can not be won over night. It takes time, courage and experience to build true gravitas.

Think of a person you’ve met that has great presence and ask yourself, what was it about them? Do you think they always have that?

Another pitfall that I see a lot of leader make is that use their position and some mind-games to scare people. They use little tricks like an extra long silence and a poker face to make it very uncomfortable for others in the room and so they become someone feared in the business. True presence means respected NOT feared.

Another common trap is the belief that presence comes from being the smartest person in the room…we’ve all seen this as someone spends all their time giving advice, speaking first, wanting to be heard and, once again, while this means everyones know they’re present is doesn’t mean they have presence.


“The answer is, who you are cannot be defined through thinking or mental labels or definitions, because it's beyond that. It is the very sense of being, or presence, that is there when you become conscious of the present moment. In essence, you and what we call the present moment are, at the deepest level, one.”  Eckhart Tolle

True presence is a state of mind that is achieved by someone who is incredibly comfortable in their own skin, has mastered their craft, values the input of every individual and is fully focused on shared outcome . To build it here are 5 big steps:

1. Be at peace with yourself.

This is easier said than done. And it’s a whole topic on it’s own. But as a start you must come to terms with where you are in life. Forgive yourself, know your own strengths, weakness and flaws and be comfortable with it. You aren’t perfect.

No one is. Stop comparing and competing and become at peace with yourself.

Being at peace with yourself means you’re not trying to get credit for every play. In fact, quite the opposite, you’re looking to help others take giant leaps and have personal victories. You'll never be comfortable in your own skin until you've done this.

2. Know your outcome

To build your presence know exactly what you’re trying to achieve and ensure you’re fully congruent with the outcomes. If there is any part of you that is vague or wishy-washy about what you’re trying to achieve others will sense it.

Once you know what you want be deeply across the strategy to get you there. This will allow you to have profound insights into a problem and help others see the world differently.

3. Full attention to those present

Remove all distractions like phones, laptops or distracting thoughts and give 100% of  your attention to those that are present. I remember hearing Jonah Lomu, the legendary All Black rugby player, talk about giving autographs when he was out in public and he said, “They don’t really want my signature, they just want a moment of my time.”  And so he would stop what he was doing and give his full attention to the kid or fan tapping him on the shoulder.

This full attention also means letting others speak first, asking searching and meaningful questions and only offering advice when it’s needed.

4. Zero desperation

People can smell desperation miles off and it sacrifices presence completely. In big meetings seek deep understanding, common ground and always be working towards a game changing outcome. If you’re desperate to climb the ladder, get a sale, gain respect you’ll only end up repelling people.

There is a different energy between desperation and commitment to an outcome. You can be committed to an outcome and have a strategy to get there that exudes presence.

5. No fear

I remember hearing that Tiger Woods in his prime described that one of the reasons he good hit the big shots is he had no fear of the outcome. He owned the outcome whatever it was.

So play without fear. Do not be swayed by the opinions of small-minded people.

At times this will require having a very thick skin and potentially weathering criticism. But great chiefs will ALWAYS have doubters from some quarters. If no one is resisting then you aren’t pushing hard enough.

Final thoughts on Mastering True Executive Presence

Chiefs, Executive Presence is first about INTERNAL PRESENCE. It is about knowing and becoming truly comfortable in your own Inner Chief and being present in the moment.

Remember, The Outer Chief is a reflection of The Inner Chief.

When you have internal presence then your external presence will radiate to those around you. Everyone will benefit. You will enjoy opportunities, growth, others wanting to work with you as they know you will help them be successful.

True Executive Presence is the mark a GREAT chief regardless of their position.

Make it your aim in life and nothing will stop you from personal greatness.

Stay epic