Blog Post

Building a Culture in Training for Executive Presence Part 2 (Substance)

Published: Saturday, August 3, 2019
Updated: Saturday, August 03, 2019


Brian Rook and Abbey Maidment

The previous blog centered on the character of the individual as a foundational point from which a person anchors their executive presence. Bates (2013) suggested from character, a person can have substance and style when they are engaging in communication to influence executives. The importance of the depth in character and what gets presented to the team or individuals at the executive level cannot be underlined enough. These people are savvy at seeing through people in general and are used to having sales professionals, self-serving people, and manipulative people trying to influence them daily. It is important that they see a true representation of who is working to influence. There is a wonderful parable that Jesus of Nazareth shares that is relevant to this:

Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn't fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn't do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall. Matthew 7:24-27. 

Jesus is speaking about putting his word into practice, and this can relate to how we build relationships with those around us. Many people will build their relationships on sand as it is a faster path; however, the foundation is weak and any push from an outside source will compromise the entire structure. A relationship build on rock takes more time, but is a strong foundation and can withstand pressures from outside sources. This should be a non-negotiable when establishing the character and substance to a room with executives.

Substance is a method of integrating one's character and virtues into thoughtsactions, and filters conveyed through confidence and strategic alignment. Broken down this looks and feels like:

the thoughts of the individual working to project executive presence should be global in impact, curious and investigative of the room. It is important to know: what keeps that executive or person up at night from their work? How is their team or department doing in general and what risks are they concerned about? What are their successes? These are questions of opportunity that give the information to frame the thoughts and approach in the conversation. For starters, this demonstrates the focus on others and creates a natural position of servant leadership. Moreover, these questions guide the establishment of the paradigm in which to begin thinking alongside of others in the room as a valued contributor to their thoughts.


the actions of the individual working to project executive presence should indicate the substance of character in that it portrays one's values and virtues. If a core value is on investment and development of others in the workplace, then questions and thoughts should convey this, such as, "Understanding the thoughts and direction needed to breathe life into the vision, do all the people on the team have the right skillsets, and if not, what do you think they need that we can help equip them with to best position them for success?" This is where the true essence of the character is brought to life as it fulfills the values given while serving others to meet their goals. The action of the individual becomes a track record or resume of decisions that are indicative of the character of that person. These are evaluated live in a conversation and smart executives can read these or unpack these from individuals in a hurry.

the strategic alignment of the individual working to project executive presence should align global knowledge, local knowledge, and relevant factors to the people in the room. A common mistake people make when trying to give off executive presence is a pre-framed presentation that does not deviate to realign or assess the room and adjust to maximize the impact of actions and thoughts in the room. It is important to have a purpose in the conversation, but the path to get to those methods should allow for the flexibility. As the conversation continues within the room, the strategic alignment part kicks in to connect dots from multiple departments, various levels of impacts, and acceptable or ideal outcomes. This positions the individual to be perceived as highly knowledgeable and mature in their understanding of the room. Key players and politics are determined through this process too. Who are the clear leaders in the room and how do people respond in general to that person's ideas?

The synthesis these components applies substance in which someone's character comes to life and is presented both directly and indirectly that frames the individual as mature, politically savvy, strategic, and serving of others. It is also honest and transparent whereby a genuinely good person could demonstrate it properly.

A followership point:

This is considered a common topic for leadership; however, from a followership perspective - this has a high level of influenceability and even positioning for growth into leadership. These kinds of approaches naturally recruit followers, so influence would be established whether in a management role or not. An exemplary follower will expedite the trust of their leaders and c-suite wherein levels of confidentiality are opened, and trust established to work on true vulnerabilities across the organization. 

Specifically, people in the career of professional development will find that the level of authenticity and depth in thought naturally create tighter bonds with teammates who become typically more opened to partnerships on serving teams. Even more, people in professional development will find that their managers (if they are great at their job) give more space to explore and innovate as a thought leader for the organization. This level or mature thinking opens a lot of doors and gives a great sense of fulfillment in serving others.



About the Author

I am a passionate learner committed to serving those around me through development and education. I place high value in the character of who we are, and my professional mission is to impact the depths of the character - even for myself. The foundation of my virtues are: service, respect, humility, and critical thinking.

I currenlty serve as the director of training for Lincoln Financial Group in Fort Wayne, and hold a doctorate in Adult and Occupational Education from North Dakota State Univeristy. My primary of focus is on followership and leadership in organizations. I have managed operations, changing culture, and growing executive leadership teams, and I just can't get enough!

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