8 Ways to Build Executive Presence in Your Association Leadership

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DeLaine Bender CAE and Madison Wallace - AMR Management Services


For some lucky individuals, executive presence seems to be innate. These individuals act with authority, respond well under pressure, and easily engage with and inspire others. In short, they have an ability to inspire confidence. Yet, executive presence is not a trait. It is a cultivatable skill.

What is “executive presence” exactly?

Executive presence refers to a set of qualities and characteristics that enable a person to project confidence, authority, and professionalism in a leadership role. It encompasses a combination of communication skills, personal style, and overall demeanor that conveys a sense of leadership, credibility, and effectiveness.

If you are looking to enhance your executive presence in your association, here are eight fundamental components to hone:

1 Confidence

For those who struggle with indecisiveness or low self-esteem, the inability to project confidence can create a real barrier to success. Leaders with executive presence exude confidence in their abilities, decisions, and interactions. They have a clear sense of self-assurance, and their actions and words reflect this self-confidence. If you struggle with confidence, practice positive self-talk by replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Then, identify your strengths and leverage them to build your confidence.

2 Credibility

Executive presence requires appearing as credible and trustworthy. Leaders with executive presence are accountable, knowledgeable, and have a track record of success. They inspire confidence and build trust with others by following through on commitments and acting when and where it is most needed. Prioritize building positive relationships with stakeholders. Actively listen, be responsive, and show empathy to build trust and respect.

3 Authenticity

Authenticity is about being genuine, sincere, and true to oneself. Leaders with executive presence are authentic in their interactions and are true to their values and principles. They are not afraid to be themselves and show vulnerability when appropriate. Be true to yourself and your values, and be consistent in your actions and decisions.

4 Poise and Composure

Leaders with executive presence remain composed and poised, even in challenging situations. They manage stress and conflict effectively, maintain a calm demeanor, and think critically under pressure. They have the ability to handle difficult conversations and situations with grace and professionalism. Practicing mindfulness can help you improve your ability to stay poised and composed, even in challenging situations.

5 Strong Communication

Communication is a critical component of executive presence. Leaders with executive presence are effective communicators who can articulate their ideas clearly, listen actively to others, and adapt their communication style to different audiences. They have excellent verbal and non-verbal communication skills, which helps them better connect, inspire, and lead others. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to provide feedback on your communication skills. Be self-aware of your communication style, body language, and tone and how these, in combination, are being perceived by your audience.

6 Professional Image

Executive presence also includes how leaders present themselves physically. It involves dressing professionally, maintaining good grooming habits, and paying attention to body language. A polished appearance can contribute to a leader’s overall presence and influence.

7 Emotional Intelligence

Leaders with executive presence possess high emotional intelligence, which involves self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills. They are skilled at managing their own emotions and are sensitive to the emotions of others. This enables them to build positive relationships, navigate difficult situations, read social cues, and make informed decisions. To develop self-awareness, practice reflecting on your emotions, identifying your triggers, and acknowledging your mistakes. Seek feedback from others to gain a better understanding of how you are perceived.

8 Strategic Thinking

Leaders with executive presence are strategic thinkers who can see the big picture and make decisions that align with organizational goals. They have a strategic mindset and can anticipate challenges and opportunities, analyze complex situations, and make well-informed decisions that further your association’s mission, vision, and goals. Collect and analyze data on industry trends, member needs, and association performance to inform your decision-making.


Overall, executive presence is a combination of various qualities and behaviors that enable a leader to command respect, demonstrate sincerity, influence others, and inspire confidence. It is an essential attribute for association management professionals and anyone who aspires to excel in executive or leadership roles. Remember, developing executive presence is a journey, and it takes time and effort to improve. With practice and dedication, you can become a more effective and inspiring association leader.

If you are looking to enhance your executive presence, our company is here to help. We specialize in association management and offer a range of services to help you achieve your goals, including strategic leadership support. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take your association to the next level.

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DeLaine Bender CAE
Vice President of Client Services

Degrees and Credentials:
Certified Association Executive (CAE), Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma

Association Management Professional Since:

What inspires you about your work?
In my career, I have been blessed to work with some amazing, inspiring association leaders, who have become mentors and friends. I also enjoy the challenging, ever-changing environment of associations, and the sense of fulfillment in having made a difference in a profession or on an issue.

Cropped Version of Madison Wallace Profile Pic
Madison Wallace
Project Coordinator

Degrees and Credentials:
Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication from Morehead State University and a Master of Arts in Communication

Association Management Professional Since:

What inspires you about your work?
I enjoy collaborating with committees and team members to create worthwhile projects that meets the evolving needs of the members we serve. It’s inspiring to work alongside such dedicated volunteers who are striving to move their industries forward.

All Posts By DeLaine Bender CAE