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The Four Elements of Executive Presence

Executive presence

As a leader we are being asked to do more, be more, think more, take more and give more every day. There’s just no break and no end in sight. Our employees expect us to be the same leader we were before this crisis. They must think we are a “Super” — like in the movie “The Incredibles” — as if global pandemics don’t affect us, we have no stress and no family to worry about. We are expected to be on top of our game, day in and day out. We are the Super leaders, right?

We are not Super leaders and it’s okay not to be a Super. After all, we are humans living through a global pandemic. Obviously, we have loved ones to care for, concerns for the facilities we own or manage, and a tremendous amount of stress. It is OK if we slip up, or want to yell or cry. We may be scared, mad, anxious, depressed and stressed — except we are the ones who need to mask it.

Masking our emotions is even more challenging in today’s environment. We need to go through our toolbox of resources and get out the tool that will help remind us to stay calm and cool. This tool is for our emotional intelligence, as in think before you act or say. But there is another tool that may be just as important these days — a tool for our executive presence.  

Executive presence is the perception of an individual as having authority, being capable, trustworthy, in charge and inspiring. Our teams need to see their leader as being in charge, inspiring, capable and trustworthy just by their presence. The four elements of executive presence are appearance, communication, gravitas and character.


You know the old saying, “dress to impress?” This is it. Our appearance and body language dictate the message we want to send. Come to work slouching in your sweats and flip-flops, and see how your team reacts. If you come to work looking professional, confident and upbeat, you are setting the tone that it’s time for business and we got this.


Communicate with your tone of voice. This is more important than what we are trying to say. We also need to be fully present and listen with complete attention — active listening skills are a must.


Your gravitas is your composure, confidence, compassion and charisma. Note that composure is the first trait listed and can be especially challenging with emotions running high. Even demonstrating confidence during these days of such uncertainly can get tricky, but will pay off.


All can be lost through character alone. Character is our integrity, authenticity, intentionality and interactivity. We need to do what is right and be authentic about what is happening without losing our composure. We need to be intentional with our behaviors and promote the interactivity of our teams, providing open and honest communication both ways.

So as we mask our feelings, and quietly scream or cry in private, we’ll take our place as a leader who is ready to lead, fight and do whatever it takes to bring the team and business to success. We can feel all the emotions everyone else is feeling — however, we will duck, hide and contain these emotions until the right time, the right place and with the right people. We are not Supers, but we are leaders.

Karen M. Raisch-Siegel

Karen M. Raisch-Siegel is the executive director of LifeWorks of Southwest General, a health and fitness facility owned and operated by Southwest General Hospital. Karen has been the executive director for over 15 years and is responsible for full operations of the health and wellness center. Karen holds a master’s of science degree in exercise physiology and a bachelor’s of science degree in advertising and business administration. She is a member of the REX roundtables for executives, currently serves on the Middleburg Heights Chamber of Commerce board, the Olmsted Chamber of Commerce board and Valley Riding Inc. board of directors, and is a certified group exercise instructor who actively continues to teach.

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