These 5 Attributes Comprise True Influence

UPDATED: May 7, 2024
PUBLISHED: June 13, 2022
These 5 Attributes Comprise True Influence

Ever wonder what it takes to command a room, influence perception or get a seat at the table?

A striking personal appearance, excellent communication skills, extraordinary competence, clout and rapport are each compelling qualities that immediately come to mind.

However, no matter which individual variables you consider, they all point to the same thing: your ability to successfully wield influence through executive presence.

But what is executive presence, exactly?

In his book Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO, Harrison Monarth, an expert in coaching high-level players in the art of perception management, states that executive presence is the ability to:

  • Accurately “read” people and predict their behavior
  • Influence the perceptions of others
  • Persuade those of opposing views to your side
  • Create and maintain a personal “brand”
  • Manage and control your online reputation
  • Perform damage control when things go wrong

Harvard Business Review explains it this way: “Although executive presence is highly intuitive and difficult to pin down, it ultimately boils down to your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team.”

No matter how you define “executive presence,” if you want to develop greater influence and, in turn, greater personal and professional success, consider mastering the following key attributes:

1. Competence and Credibility

If you seek to wield influence, take a hard look at the man or woman in the mirror and get clear on the value you bring to the table. Do you dabble or have you developed unqualified competence in various areas of expertise? Are you actively leveraging your skill set and knowledge base for the benefit of others? If so, is that benefit recognized, respected and touted by your peers? It isn’t enough to be singularly aware of what you bring to the table; your contributions must be palpable and held in high regard by others.

When American business magnate, investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett enters a room, there is zero question about his ability to deliver on the promise of results. He knows his stuff and prides himself on being a consummate learner. His track record? Exemplary. Well-known for an unmatched ability to advise on and disrupt complex market trends, his competence and credibility each speak volumes.

2. Confidence

Even if you are competent and credible, when you don’t believe in yourself, it will always be difficult to convince anyone else that they should. But do not confuse arrogance with confidence. Confidence is an innate beacon of light that draws others to you, inspired by your competence and credibility. Arrogance, on the other hand, is distinguished by blatant pretense and quickly turns people off. When you are certain of the value that you bring, there is no need to overcompensate.

When former President Barack Obama enters a room, he embodies unmistakable, unshakable confidence. His compelling demeanor, marked by a powerful sense of certainty, is magnetic. Widely acknowledged for his standout ability to influence others by leveraging the perfect trifecta of competence, credibility and confidence, he has become an irresistible icon the world over.

3. Compassion

Having all the above qualities does not exempt you from being compassionate. To effectively influence anyone, they must also know that you care. We’ve all heard the familiar adage coined by Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This sentiment rings especially true when it comes to influence.

It’s one of the main reasons that Oprah Winfrey, for example, has become such a beloved celebrity. While she has contributed a great deal of thought leadership over the years, people have come to love and admire her even more because of her compassion for others, vividly demonstrated through philanthropy. She really cares about people, and her compassion has made raving fans of the masses as a result.

 4. Charisma

Charismatic leaders are often the most influential. Rapport is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to connect with virtually anyone. As humans, we have an innate, almost primal desire to connect with one another. That desire, however, does not always translate in everyday interactions. Sometimes we’re successful. Other times not so much. Developing charisma requires being intentional and focusing on others rather than yourself. When people feel connected to you and your vision, they are far more likely to get on board and offer their support.

Lee Iacocca used his charisma to work many a room and influence others through the gift of gab. One famous instance was his ability to persuade Congress to guarantee a sizable loan to Chrysler that saved it from a crippling bankruptcy.

5. Consistency

If you are spotty in how you show up, your personal brand will lack credibility and you will be unable to garner influence. Consistency is key to building executive presence because it provides the best “evidence” of your deliverables. If you bring your A game every now and again but your C game most of the time, you’ll be known as an average player. People need to know they can count on you to do what you say you will, at a level that reflects excellence. If not, your efforts will all be for naught.

Floyd Mayweather has developed an impeccable reputation for excellence in the boxing world, not only because of his remarkable skill, but also because of his consistency. He trains consistently with an enviable work ethic and expends tremendous mental and physical effort to capture every win. His opponents, as well as his fans, have come to know this truth quite well.

Are you ready to wield influence? If so, work to master these critical attributes to maximize your personal and professional success. 

This article was published in March 2018 and has been updated. Photo by CarlosBarquero/Shutterstock

A leading authority on leadership development and organizational performance management, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than 25 years of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business and academia to every client engagement. A shrewd advisor to distinguished organizations from DC to Dubai, her expert insights help clients to successfully navigate today's ever-changing and competitive global business environment. Karima is the author of the internationally acclaimed and 2019 NAACP Image Award nominated leadership guidebook, Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an extension of her work, she speaks regularly both nationally and internationally in her areas of expertise and serves in an advisory capacity on select corporate boards.