Posted by: kerrywills | December 1, 2009

Tip: Have presence

A Project Manager needs to have “presence” to be persuasive. This means that a Project Manager projects a sense of self assurance and confidence in their leadership skills. This is an essential skill to influencing others because it demonstrates confidence and conviction which are needed to successfully facilitate, negotiate, present recommendations and persuade others.

There are several ways that a Project Manager can focus on improving their presence:

  • Dress the part. A Project Manager should always dress in a professional manner which shows respect for their work, themselves, and their team. Project Managers should consider dressing fancier (e.g. business suit) for meetings with senior executives or customers. However a Project Manager should also consider the organizational culture and team culture when they dress. Sometimes wearing a business suit every day can come across as pretentious or being “above the team members.” Conversely the Project Manager may not want to dress down often and be seen as too casual and not get the team’s respect.
  • Talk the part. A Project Manager should be conscious of the words they are using and how they speak. It is very hard to influence others, negotiate a crisis or facilitate a heated discussion when speaking softly and quietly. Conversely, coming across as too loud can be seen as dominating and authoritative. A Project Manager should be confident in their speech and use intonation to highlight key points in their messages. Showing confidence in the team and being a champion is critical to success. If the Project Manager doesn’t believe in the cause, then the team will not be motivated to work to their potential either.
  • Act the part. Project Managers should recognize that they are leaders and that they are constantly being watched by the team members. Therefore, if a Project Manager acts as the leader of their team they will be perceived that way. However, if they act like they don’t have control over the project and can not make decisions then they will quickly lose the confidence of the team.

Project Managers should not confuse having presence with being arrogant or self promoting. Being self assured is very different than stating one’s experience and importance to others. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and the Project Manager should use self management techniques (e.g. Emotional Intelligence) to get an understanding of how they are perceived. If they don’t understand their “executive presence” then they will most likely need to give “executive presents” to management because they will have a hard time getting things done with the team.

Note: This is an excerpt from my upcoming book and the text will be copyrighted



  1. Kerry,

    Good perspective and excellent posting.

    Can you expand on what you mean by “executive presents”? Do you have examples of executive presence vs. executive presents?


    • I mean that if you can’t be successful with how you are perceived (presence) then you may have to influence with gifts (presents)….meant to be a play on words….

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