How Executive Presence Can Help You in Times of Stress

March 27, 2015

executive presence helps stress

If you’re one of the few leaders who faces stress in their role, then allow me to offer some valuable insights.

Of course, I jest. As a business leader myself, I am often stressed. And, I’m certain you are too.

The executives we work with globally in the largest companies in the world face stress constantly. At times, this stress rises to a level that seriously risks their physical and mental health.

In fact, as a manager or business leader, your job is actually to create stress. It’s what you get paid to do. Dr. Mark Tager, a friend and leading authority on leadership, stress, and change, challenges his business leader clients to reflect on their best boss – deeply reflect. Tager found that our “best bosses” have a knack for leveraging stress to create energy, enthusiasm, commitment, and even, dare I say, well-being.


Well, we’ve learned and proven scientifically that the best leaders in business excel because of their executive presence. At Bates, we define “executive presence” as a set of specific and clearly defined qualities of a leader that align, engage, inspire, and move people to act. There are 15 qualities, or facets, that fall under three primary dimensions – Character, Substance, and Style. Take a look at the model here.

Examples of facets of executive presence that contribute to stress reduction include Restraint, a Character facet that is represented in leaders who demonstrate moderation and reasonableness. Other important facets of Character that lead to healthy stress are Integrity and Humility. This will not surprise you, I’m guessing, if you think about your best boss.

Composure, a facet within the Substance dimension of leaders, shows up as a calm, self-possessed state of mind borne of facing challenges and navigating through them – by definition, reducing stress. Others in this dimension include Confidence and Resonance. Confidence here is defined as a readiness to accept risk and responsibility for timely action. Resonance is that all-important element akin to emotional intelligence, where a leader connects deeply with others – staying attuned to feelings and being appropriately responsive.

Leaders who are aware of their strength facets that contribute to presence can then learn how to leverage them to help improve how they’re “showing up” to their stakeholders in their critical gap areas. In the process, leaders can learn to create healthy stress that drives performance, excellence, and growth. At the same time, this awareness allows the leader a prescription for stress relief.

As a contributor to executive presence, managing stress and creating healthy stress begins with:

  1. Getting a deeper understanding of your strengths and gap areas – if you can’t assess it, you can’t address it
  2. Clarifying context and setting the direction
  3. Communicating with credibility
  4. Providing empathy
  5. Keeping balance in mind

Honing your executive presence begins on the inside. When you learn how you “show up” with others, your acknowledged strengths can allow you to manage stress, create healthy stress, and inspire others. Focus on these, and you’re sure to show up on someone’s list of “best bosses” someday.

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Executive presence will help you become a better leader. Learn all the leadership tools you need with these AMA resources and seminars.

About The Author

David Casullo is president of Bates ( and author of Leading the High-Energy Culture (McGraw Hill). He leads a team of seasoned consultants and coaches that help executives drive business results through communicative leadership and executive presence. David’s experience as a senior executive and corporate HR leader drives his passion for leadership development and strategy.

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