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The Three Cs of Executive Presence

Posted by Erin Ryan on May 29, 2019 2:48:16 PM

The 3 Cs of Executive Presence

By Erin Ryan, JD, and Jill Huse, MPS

Executive presence (EP) is crucial for lawyers to gain and maintain the trust of their colleagues and clients. By the same token, it is equally important for legal marketers to develop EP for our own professional growth and success. In fact, a study by the Center for Talent Innovation suggests that EP counts for 26% of what it takes to earn a promotion in today's global marketplace. Yet, EP remains an elusive and exhausting algorithm of adjectives: intelligent (but not arrogant!), persuasive (but not pushy!), valuable, influential, poised, commanding, respected — and well dressed on top of it all. In sum, “you know it when you see it.” 

The good news is that EP is not a genetic trait, but a skill with many dimensions. Like any skill, you must cultivate, practice and refine it. As you consider your own level of EP, consider these three foundational pillars: 

  • Control: In our industry, the list of things outside our control goes on and on (Chambers rankings, anyone?). If you are someone with EP, you let go of the things you can’t control and focus on things that you can. Importantly, those include your appearance, your messaging and your emotions. You “dress the part” in both clothing and body language. You consistently, clearly and authentically articulate your value proposition. You’re able to productively harness and leverage your emotions, especially in difficult situations. As a result, you can maintain better control of how others perceive you. (Because, as we all know, perception is reality!)
  • Communication: In the words of Robert Frost, “Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.” People with EP have found the middle ground. They can articulate clear, concise ideas and are focused when they communicate. They are in tune with their audience and flex communication styles easily. They avoid verbose “marketing speak,” which is a surefire EP killer. Most importantly, they stop talking. Instead, they listen with the intent to learn.
  • Confidence: If you have EP, you have all three of these core elements that relate to confidence:
    • Self-confidence – You have developed your own unique perspective based on your individual, hard-won experiences. You know why you are an asset to your organization, and you can clearly articulate your value proposition (see no. 2 above), yet you are not arrogant. As Harvard business school professor Amy Cuddy writes: “Quiet confidence is best. The truly ‘present’ executive is one who doesn’t need to trumpet his achievements. Usually that style produces the opposite results with skepticism around authenticity and lack of self-awareness. Instead, he or she has an internal resolve driven by a solid sense of self-worth.” 
    • An ability to make others confident in you – You have the confidence of your subordinates, peers and leaders. You are a leader that your team wants to follow. You are a teammate that peers describe as capable and reliable. You are an employee that senior leaders look to when the organization needs to achieve next-level goals. 
    • An ability to make others feel confident in themselves – Something must transpire outside of you. If you truly have EP, you inspire others to grow, lead and achieve for themselves. 

So, how do you stack up? EP comes naturally for some. For the rest of us, it can be learned through discipline, awareness and a desire to change. You’ve got this. 

Interested in learning more about EP and taking your career to the next level? Erin and Jill will present “Develop Your Executive Presence: Connecting Merit and Success” at the LMA Midwest Regional Conference, taking place June 18-19 in Detroit, Michigan. Learn more and register here

Erin RyanErin Ryan, JD, is a senior business development manager at McGuireWoods LLP. Over her 14-year career, Erin has been fortunate to provide business development and marketing services to three AmLaw 100 firms, with the last nine years spent at McGuireWoods. Her role as senior business development manager encompasses many facets, including revenue generation, practice development, coaching, innovation and client relationship management. Erin is an active member of LMA and will serve as chair of the 2020 LMA Southeast Regional Conference. She frequently writes and speaks on business development, management and professional growth.  


Jill HuseSociety 54 Co-Founder Jill Huse, MPS, is renowned as a trusted professional services advisor and certified business coach. She is highly regarded for her progressive ingenuity, research-based strategy and, most importantly, her ability to deliver results for clients. Jill has worked in professional services marketing for nearly 20 years. She is actively involved in LMA, currently serving as the 2019 President-Elect of the International Board of Directors. Additionally, Jill is one of the founding members of Law 2.5, a roundtable think tank focused on the future of the legal industry and how to implement and lead change.


Topics: executive presence, LMA Midwest Regional Conference, professional development

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