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 🙂

Zespół The Blue Tree

Learn more words


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.