What You Need to Have a Strong Executive Presence

What You Need to Have a Strong Executive Presence

Sorry, but lessons on The Blue Tree work only on a computer or a tablet.

Bardzo mi przykro, ale lekcje na platformie The Blue Tree działają jedynie na komputerze lub tablecie.

Do zobaczenia na większym ekranie 🙂

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Business English




Practise speaking by describing this image

warm up

Answer the questions below. Listen to sample answers. Report back what you heard.

How do you feel about the progress of your professional career so far?

I feel pretty good about my career progress. I’ve learned a lot managing my team of five. It’s been challenging but rewarding. I know there’s a lot more to learn to be a director, but I’m excited about that journey. Each day at work teaches me something new, and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.


I think a good manager is someone who listens to their team and understands their needs. It’s important to communicate clearly and help the team work together well. Being decisive and confident is key, but also being fair and supportive. I try to be this kind of boss. A good manager should always be learning and growing, just like their team.

What’s the difference between a manager and a leader in an organisation?

To me, a manager is someone who makes sure the team does their work right and on time. They organize tasks and solve problems. A leader, on the other hand, is more about inspiring and guiding the team towards bigger goals. They help the team see the bigger picture and grow together. A manager focuses on the day-to-day, while a leader looks at the future and motivates everyone to reach it.


part one


Read the article based on ““The New Rules of Executive Presence,” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett” from Harvard Business Review.

Key Elements for a Strong Executive Presence

1. Gravitas

Gravitas is about showing confidence and having a clear vision, similar to how a captain leads a ship. It’s essential to make decisions confidently and set a clear direction for your team. More importantly, gravitas now includes ensuring everyone in your team feels included and valued, just like every crew member on a ship plays a crucial role.

Illustration: Take John, for example. As an aspiring manager, he demonstrates gravitas by leading team meetings with confidence, making sure to hear and respect everyone’s input.

2. Strong Communication Skills

Effective communication requires clarity and directness. It is similar to navigating a ship through challenging waters. Today, this also involves being good at running virtual meetings. Leaders need to command attention of their audience. They also listen actively, much like a sailor who must be attuned to both the ship and the sea.

Illustration: John works on becoming a better manager by practicing clear communication and listening to his team members, ensuring he understands their perspectives and needs.

3. The Right Appearance

Today, a leader’s appearance is about authenticity more than conforming to traditional standards. This shift is like a ship being valued more for its capability than its looks. Leaders should be true to themselves, showcasing their genuine personality, just as a ship sails under its true colours.

Illustration: John embraces this approach by dressing professionally in a way that reflects his own style, showing his authenticity as a leader. He does not pretend to be somebody else. He is also not copying the behaviour or other leaders, but rather tries to build his own style. 

based on “The New Rules of Executive Presence,” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett”


Answer the questions about this article.

  • What does it mean to show gravitas?
  • What’s the other element of showing gravitas apart from clear vision?
  • How can one show gravitas in meetings?
  • What is good communication about?
  • What should aspiring leaders learn to do in the context of virtual meetings?
  • How can leader’s show right appearance?
  • What is being authentic about?


Alita and Pete are discussing this article during lunch at work. Read (role-play) this dialogue.

Kat: “So, Sven, what do you think about that article on executive presence? I found the part about gravitas really interesting.”

Sven: “Yeah, it made me think about how Marina handles our team. She’s like that captain they mentioned – always confident and clear about our goals.”

Kat: “True, and she’s really good at making everyone feel included. It’s like she knows every crew member’s worth.”

Sven: “Exactly! And her communication skills… Remember how she managed that crisis last month? She was clear and direct, just like steering a ship through rough seas.”

Kat: “I was impressed with that, too. She’s also great at virtual meetings. It’s like she’s commanding the ship, whether we’re in the same room or not.”

Sven: “Right. But what do you think about the part on appearance? Marina doesn’t really fit the traditional ‘executive’ look.”

Kat: “That’s what I admire about her. She’s authentic, and it’s refreshing. She dresses professionally, but in her own style. Like the article says, it’s not about the ship’s look, but its capability.”

Sven: “I hadn’t thought of it that way. You know, seeing Marina in action makes me want to improve my leadership skills. What about you? Ever thought of moving up to a management role?”

Kat: “I’m not sure. I like the idea of leading a team, but I’m still weighing it up. I guess I’m trying to figure out my own style of leadership.”

Sven: “Makes sense. I think you’d be great at it, though. You’ve got that natural ability to connect with people, just like Marina.”

Kat: “Thanks, Sven. That means a lot. I guess I have some thinking to do.”


part two


Complete the text about gravitas with the missing words. You may want to list to this text before you start filling in the gaps.


Do the same with the text about strong communication skills. You may want to listen to this text before you start the activity.


Choose either the topic of gravitas or strong communication skills. Prepare your own version of explanations what these concepts are. Present it to your teacher.




Pete, Sven and Kat are talking about their new boss, Margo. 

Read their dialogue. What do they admire about her?

Pete: “So, what do you guys think about Margo? She’s been our boss for a month now, right?”

Sven: “Yeah, and I’ve got to say, she really brings something new to the table. The way she carries herself… it’s like she’s born to lead. There’s this gravitas about her.”

Kat: “I agree. Like last week, when we had that issue with the client’s policy renewal. She was so composed, yet firm. That’s not easy in an insurance company like ours, with all the pressure.”

Pete: “True. And have you noticed her communication skills? It’s not just about giving orders. She really listens and makes sure everyone’s on the same page.”

Sven: “Absolutely. She handles meetings so well. It’s impressive how she balances being authoritative with being approachable. I feel like I can actually go to her with issues.”

Kat: “And it’s not just with us. Remember how she dealt with that angry client last Tuesday? She managed to calm him down and even got him to understand the policy better. That’s some skill.”

Pete: “Yeah, her ability to remain respectful and calm in difficult situations is something else. It’s like she diffuses tension just by being in the room.”

Sven: “I think it’s her experience. She knows the insurance business inside out, and it shows. Plus, her way of explaining complex stuff in simpler terms is a real asset.”

Kat: “It’s not just her skills, though. It’s her attitude. She treats everyone with respect, whether it’s a junior staff member or a top client.”

Pete: “Right. It’s refreshing to see that in a leader. Margo has this way of making you feel valued and heard. It’s no wonder the team’s morale seems higher lately.”

Sven: “She’s definitely setting a new standard here. I’m curious to see how her leadership will influence our department in the long run.”

Kat: “Me too. If the past month is anything to go by, I think we’re in for some positive changes under Margo’s leadership.”

discussion questions

Now discuss the questions below.

  • Can you describe a situation where showing gravitas is important?
  • Why do you think gravitas is important in a leader? Can you think of a leader who shows this quality?
  • What do you think makes someone a good communicator at work? Do you know someone who is a good communicator?
  • How has communication changed with virtual meetings? What skills do you think are important for communicating well online?
  • How important do you think a person’s appearance is in a professional setting? Should it matter as much as their skills?
  • Can you give an example of what ‘being authentic’ in your appearance might mean in a workplace? How do you balance professionalism with personal style?


Share your views and opinions here.

Silence your inner critic during an interview

Silence your inner critic during an interview

Silence your inner critic during an interview
Learn more words







warm up


Answer these questions. Listen to Penelope’s answers and report back what she said.


Well, to be honest, I used to get really nervous about job interviews. I remember always worrying about saying the wrong thing or not knowing an answer. But over time, as I’ve been on both sides of the interview table, it’s gotten a lot better. Now, I see interviews more like a conversation where both sides are just trying to learn about each other. It’s about finding out if we’re a good match. I still get a bit of those butterflies in my stomach, but I remind myself that it’s just a part of the process and it’s okay.

How would you rate your self-confidence on a scale from 1 to 10?

“I think I’d rate my self-confidence at around a 7 out of 10. I’ve come a long way from where I started. In my first interviews, I might have been at a 3 or 4, feeling really unsure of myself. But with more experience in the HR field and after going through several interviews myself, I’ve gained more confidence. I’ve learned a lot about what to expect and how to prepare, which really helps. Of course, there’s always room to grow and improve, but I’m definitely more confident now than I used to be.”

What are some of the ways we could improve our self-confidence in general?

One way to boost self-confidence is to practice your skills. Like in my job, the more I work on recruitment and interview others, the better I get at it. This makes me feel more confident. Also, learning from past experiences is super helpful. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, I try to see it as a chance to learn and grow, rather than a failure.

Another thing is to set small, achievable goals. When you reach these goals, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and boosts your confidence. And don’t forget to celebrate these little wins!

It’s also important to surround yourself with supportive people who encourage you. Having friends or colleagues who believe in you can really lift your spirits.

Lastly, taking care of yourself is key. This means getting enough rest, eating well, and doing things that make you happy. When you feel good physically and mentally, it naturally boosts your confidence.”



Listen to the recording of the article from Harvard Business Review. What is the main idea presented in it?

Alita is listening to a podcast and making notes



Read the article. Note the new words and expressions.

Silence Your Inner Critic Before Your Next Job Interview

Job interviews can make even the most confident person 1. question themselves. But it’s important to 2. quash those negative thoughts so that you can allow your best self to shine. First, remember that the interview isn’t about proving your technical expertise or subject-matter mastery. You already demonstrated that in your application, and the interviewers want to know what it will be like to work with you. So let go of needing the interview to be technically perfect. As with every skill, the more you do it, the better you’ll be, so practice, practice, and practice some more. As your 3. aptitude improves, so will your confidence level. Manage your anxiety by focusing on the elements you can control. For example, if you’re worried about arriving on time, try taking multiple routes to your destination before the day of the interview to see which one gets you there fastest. Above all, put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. 4. Articulate the team’s needs as you understand them, and tell a story of how you’ve solved similar problems. Following these tips will help you 5. overcome your nerves and 6. place yourself head and shoulders above the competition.

This tip is adapted from Don’t Let Impostor Syndrome Derail Your Next Interview,” by Susan Peppercorn

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Answer these questions refering to the article and using your own experience.

  • What can dim your performance at a job interview?
  • What is the purpose of an interview?
  • Does your performance need to be technically perfect?
  • What can you do to feel less apprehensive?
  • How can you put yourself in your prospective manager’s shoes?
  • What will heeding the advice from this lesson help you with?


Read a dialogue from a job interview. Penelope is talking to a young man, George, who is applying for a position of a junior underwriter.

Role play this dialogue.

Penelope: Good morning, George! Thank you for coming in today. How are you feeling?

George: Morning, Penelope. I’m, uh, a bit nervous, but I’m okay, thanks.

Penelope: It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit nervous. I remember feeling the same in my first interviews. Let’s start with something easy. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

George: Sure. I recently graduated with a degree in finance. I’ve always been interested in the insurance sector, especially underwriting. I did an internship last summer where I got some hands-on experience.

Penelope: That’s great to hear! Your internship experience will definitely be valuable. What did you enjoy most about it?

George: I really liked analyzing the risk factors and working on the reports. It was challenging, but I learned a lot.

Penelope: That’s a key part of being an underwriter. Now, about the position, it involves a fair bit of teamwork. How do you feel about working in a team?

George: I’m a bit shy at first, but once I get to know the team, I open up. I believe in the importance of teamwork for successful projects.

Penelope: That’s a good approach. And don’t worry, we all start somewhere with shyness. What do you think is an area you’d like to improve in professionally?

George: I think I need to work on my self-confidence, especially in meetings and presentations.

Penelope: That’s a common area many of us work on. Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and with practice, you’ll improve. George, from this conversation, I can see you’re a promising candidate. Keep working on that self-confidence; it will come with time and experience.

George: Thank you, Penelope. That means a lot. I’m really excited about the opportunity to grow and contribute to the team.

Penelope: We’re excited too. We’ll be in touch soon with our decision. Have a great day, George!

George: Thank you! Have a great day as well, Penelope.


Read this dialogue between colleagues at work. They are discussing how they managed to work on their initial shyness. 

Who’s strategy do you like the most?

Alita: Hey, Kat, Sven, I was just thinking about how far we’ve all come since we started here. We were all pretty shy back then, right?

Kat: Definitely! I remember barely being able to speak up in meetings. It took me a while to find my voice.

Sven: Yeah, I was the same. I always worried about saying something wrong.

Alita: So, what helped you, Kat? You seem so confident now.

Kat: Honestly, it was all about preparation for me. I started preparing my points for meetings in advance. Knowing what I wanted to say helped me feel more confident about speaking up.

Sven: That’s a good strategy. For me, it was more about self-acceptance. I realized it’s okay to be a bit introverted and that my ideas were still valuable. That mindset shift helped me a lot.

Alita: I think for me, it was seeing others who were also shy but managed to speak up. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and if they could do it, so could I. Plus, I started small, just adding a comment here and there, and it gradually got easier.

Kat: It’s interesting how we all had different approaches. But look at us now, contributing in meetings and even leading some!

Sven: True. It’s all about finding what works for you and pushing through that initial discomfort.

Alita: Absolutely. And helping each other along the way made a big difference too.

Kat: Definitely. Having supportive colleagues like you two made a world of difference.

Sven: Agreed. It’s all about growth, and we’ve all grown a lot.

Alita: Here’s to overcoming shyness and silencing our inner critics!

Kat and Sven: Cheers to that!



Cast your vote in the poll below.

How do you usually feel during a job interview?



fill in the gaps

Complete this article with the missing words. Open the toggle to see the words you can use to fill in the gaps.

Beating Your Inner Critic and Building Self-Confidence

Do you often 1) yourself doubting your abilities? You're not alone. Many of us struggle 2) an inner critic that can make us feel less confident. But don't worry, there are ways to overcome this and 3) your self-confidence.

First, remember that practice makes 4) . The more you do something, the better you get at it. This is true for 5) interviews, public speaking, or any new skill. Practice helps you improve and builds your confidence.

Second, 6) from your experiences. If something doesn't go as planned, don't 7) it as a failure. Instead, see it as a learning opportunity. This can help you do better next time.

Setting small, achievable goals is another great 8) to boost confidence. When you reach these goals, you feel a sense of achievement. This can make you feel 9) confident about taking on bigger challenges.

It's also important to surround yourself with supportive 10) . Friends or colleagues who believe 11) you can really help improve your self-esteem.

Lastly, take 12) of yourself. Eat well, get enough sleep, and do things that make you 13) . When you feel good physically and mentally, it's easier to feel confident.

Remember, everyone has 14) of doubt. But with practice, learning, and support, you can overcome your inner critic and become more 15) . Keep opening these doors to growth and self-improvement!


Play this Multidecker game  about interview questions. 

Prepare answers to some of these questions.



Write an Effective Self-Assessment

Write an Effective Self-Assessment

Sorry, but lessons on The Blue Tree work only on a computer or a tablet.

Bardzo mi przykro, ale lekcje na platformie The Blue Tree działają jedynie na komputerze lub tablecie.

Do zobaczenia na większym ekranie 🙂

Zespół The Blue Tree

Learn more words


Business English




Practise speaking by describing this image

warm up

Answer the questions below. Then listen to Bella, a woman who works in the cunsulting industry, give her answers. Report back what you heard.

How do you feel about yearly assessment meetings?

I have mixed feelings about them, honestly. On one hand, they’re a great opportunity to reflect on the past year – looking at what I’ve achieved and where I can improve. It’s also a chance to set clear goals for the coming year. However, sometimes these meetings can feel a bit formulaic and don’t always capture the day-to-day realities of my job. I try to go into them with a positive attitude, though, because feedback is essential for growth, even if the process isn’t perfect.

Do you keep track of your achievements over the year? Is this a good idea?

Absolutely, I do keep track of my achievements throughout the year. I believe it’s a really good idea, especially in a field like auditing where the details matter a lot. Keeping a record helps me stay organized and ensures I don’t miss anything during my yearly assessment. It’s not just about listing what I’ve done, but also reflecting on how each achievement aligns with our company’s goals and values. This practice has made preparing for assessments much easier and more effective, and it also gives me a sense of accomplishment to see all that I’ve achieved over the year.

If a colleague of yours felt really anxious about their meeting with the boss, what advice would you give them?

If a colleague felt anxious about their meeting with the boss, I’d tell them, “First, remember that it’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous. These meetings are important, but they’re also an opportunity for growth. My advice would be to prepare well. Look over your achievements and think about how they’ve contributed to the team and the company. Also, be ready to discuss areas where you want to improve and perhaps have some ideas for future goals. It’s a two-way conversation, so feel free to ask for feedback and support. Lastly, stay positive and remember that your boss is there to help you succeed, not just critique you. You’ve got this!”


key language

Go through these words and expressions.

Check out if you know what they mean and how to pronounce them. 



Listen to a presentation on the topic “How to Write an Effective Self-Assessment”. 

What are the main points mentioned by the speaker?

Alita is listening to a podcast and making notes


Read the text below.

Write an Effective Self-Assessment

Writing a self-assessment can feel like a box-checking exercise, but it sets the tone for your manager’s evaluation of your work. Follow these five steps to nail this critical part of your performance review.

Focus on the entire year. Don’t just default to your most recent accomplishments. If you didn’t keep notes, take a peek at your calendar to remind yourself of the projects you worked on and significant conversations you were a part of.

Consider broader company and functional goals. Identify the work you did that directly contributed to the big picture. Your goal is to tie your day-to-day work to your organization’s success.

Look for alignment with company values. How you approached your job is just as important as what you accomplished. Identify the behaviours and attitudes you brought to work that upheld your organization’s values and culture.

Seek feedback from colleagues. Reach out to your co-workers to understand their perception of you and your work. Ask: What do I do well? What have I improved on this year? And what do you hope I improve on in the year to come?

Draft a concise list of accomplishments. Pick no more than five of the most impactful achievements to highlight. Each one should have fulfilled an organizational goal, advanced the company’s values and culture, and been informed by feedback from colleagues.

This tip is adapted from “How to Write an Effective Self-Assessment,” by Marlo Lyons



Answer the questions below using the information from the presentation and the article.

  • What is the first step suggested in the article?
  • Why is it important not to focus only on recent accomplishments?
  • In the second step, what is emphasized as crucial when reflecting on your work?
  • According to the third step, what should you reflect on in your self-assessment?
  • Step four involves feedback from colleagues. What are the three key questions you should ask them?
  • What is the recommended number of significant achievements to include in your self-assessment?



Bella had a performance review with her boss, Mr Norton. Read their dialogue.

How do they incorporate ideas from this lesson?

Mr. Norton: Bella, thank you for joining me. I’ve been looking forward to discussing your performance this year.

Bella: Thank you, Mr. Norton. I’ve prepared for this meeting and I’m eager to hear your feedback.

Mr. Norton: Well, let’s start with your overall contributions. I’ve noticed your work this year aligns well with our broader company goals. Can you share your perspective on this?

Bella: Absolutely. I’ve tried to ensure my audits are not just thorough but also contribute to our firm’s objectives. For instance, the efficiency improvements in the XYZ project directly supported our goal to enhance client satisfaction.

Mr. Norton: That’s a good example. How about the company values? How do you feel you’ve aligned your work with those?

Bella: I believe in leading by example, so I’ve embraced our values of integrity and diligence in every project. I’ve also encouraged my team to uphold these standards, fostering a culture of excellence and ethical practice.

Mr. Norton: I’ve noticed that, and it’s commendable. Tell me about the feedback you received from your colleagues.

Bella: I reached out to several team members. They appreciated my detail-oriented approach and my willingness to mentor new auditors. They did suggest, however, that I could enhance my delegation skills to manage workload more effectively.

Mr. Norton: That’s constructive feedback. Now, let’s talk about your key achievements this year.

Bella: I’ve narrowed it down to five major accomplishments. For instance, the successful audit of our largest client not only met but exceeded the compliance standards, which was a significant win for us.

Mr. Norton: Indeed, that was a highlight for our team this year. Bella, it’s clear you’ve done an outstanding job. Your self-awareness and dedication to professional growth are impressive. You’ve set a high bar, not just for yourself but for your colleagues as well.

Bella: Thank you, Mr. Norton. I appreciate your feedback and look forward to continuing to contribute to our team’s success.

Mr. Norton: Absolutely. Let’s keep this momentum going into the next year. Keep opening those doors to self-awareness and development, Bella.

Bella: Will do, Mr. Norton. Thank you for this constructive review.

Over to You

Write your own self-assessment using the tips from this lesson. 



Share your views and experience here.