navigating a bad boss imageExecutive Presence: How to Navigate the Bad Boss

Executive Presence Gone Bad


Last week we had a lively debate about executive presence. The question we sought to answer was, “Can you be an effective leader without executive presence?”

The first task was to agree on what constitutes executive presence (not what constitutes leadership).

We compiled this initial list of the traits of executive presence, with some robust debate on whether or not all of the traits belong:

  • Confidence
  • Knowledge
  • Competence
  • Humor
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Poised
  • Engaging
  • Authentic
  • Personable
  • Inspiring
  • Visionary
  • Gravitas
  • Compelling
  • Emotional Resilience
  • Command of the Room
  • Charisma
  • Focused
  • Active Listener
  • Dress the Part
  • Speaks with Authority

What we came to agree upon, after some passionate debate, is that some of the traits on this list are preferred, but not always present in the person who has executive presence. (More on that in a moment.)

For instance, have you ever had a boss who exudes confidence, takes command of the room, is compelling and gets his way, but does not have the knowledge to back up his claims?

What about the boss who displays the following negative traits?

  • Authoritarian
  • Arrogant
  • Aggressive
  • Dictatorial
  • Narcissistic
  • Manipulative
  • Self-absorbed
  • Condescending
  • Vindictive
  • Unethical

Have you come across a boss with these negative traits, and if so, how did you handle it?

Think of the character Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards.” He matches everything on the negative traits list, and certainly has executive presence.

Earlier, I mentioned that some traits on our list, though strongly preferred, do not always exist in those with executive presence. In fact, there are many who possess a great deal of executive presence, yet they display none of these traits:

  • Humor
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • In-depth Knowledge
  • Personable

house of cards - underwood imageWe may wish for these traits in a leader, along with other traits that add up to executive presence, but that is simply not always the case. We came to agree that executive presence does not always confer these specific desirable traits. (Remember Frank Underwood?)

In addition, we agreed some bosses possess a mix of many of the negative traits we listed, along with at least these traits in order to fulfill the definition of executive presence:

  • Command of the Room
  • Dress the Part
  • Speaks with Authority

The bottom line in our discussion was this:

Possessing executive presence can absolutely help you be an even more effective leader, but executive presence alone doesn’t guarantee good (or great) leadership.

Without the competency and vision to match the command of the room, dressing the part, and ability to speak with authority, a leader likely won’t go far.

That left us with an important question:

How do we best handle the boss with many of the negative traits of executive presence who doesn’t possess credible experience?

Email us with the Subject Line:  “How to Handle a Boss With Negative Traits”