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Developing Executive Presence: 4 Key Traits of Wealthy Business Leaders

Apr 02, 2024 Wealth Building for Executives

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One of the many joys of working with clients who are founders and executives is helping them navigate their wealth plans alongside building their careers, families, and legacies. It’s rare to see ambition stall in these clients; instead, their careers evolve and so do their plans for the future. Helping them design personalized wealth plans tailored to their unique priorities and goals is one of the most thrilling aspects of my career as a wealth advisor.

Many of the high-achieving professionals I work with find themselves shooting for the upper ranks of the C-Suite or owning a business themselves with aspirations of growing their wealth to a certain point. This often means that they are actively working on developing their personal brands and executive presence to earn the confidence and respect of their teammates, colleagues, and network at large.

If you aspire to rise to the next level of your career and wealth potential, developing your executive presence can help get you there. After years of working with our clients and a community of trusted, professional partners, I’ve identified four key traits these high-achieving individuals have in common.

1. They Know Their Priorities and Act Accordingly

The most successful professionals know what drives them. This lays the foundation for prioritizing their goals and getting the most value from their time, energy, and money.

In other words, they know how to live, lead, and grow wealth with purpose.

We recently interviewed renowned executive coach, Dr. Julie Gurner, on our OFF THE WALL podcast. As she puts it, the most successful professionals have a ‘North Star’ metric. They align their goals and calendars to reflect what they prioritize most.

When you’re aligned and living authentically, your personal brand will reflect your values and aspirations. This could include work-life balance, travel, hobbies, and even philanthropy, all of which can help you stay motivated and energized to always put your best foot forward.

Prioritizing also helps you tune out the noise and truly focus on those things that give you energy and purpose, opening up mental space for peak performance where it matters. This is not only beneficial in developing your career but also your long-term wealth plan.

Those who struggle to understand their priorities often have unclear goals that simply center around achieving or doing “more.” But what does “more” mean? When you shoot for a moving target, you might never actually feel you have enough. On the personal front, this may leave you feeling unfulfilled; on the wealth front, it can lead to risky investment strategies or unclear decisions when handling your finances.

Knowing your priorities and creating definable, achievable goals allows for clarity in decision-making, including being able to answer the question: What is the money for?

Just as peak professional performance comes from focusing on what’s most important, focusing on your personal wealth priorities helps you tune out the noise and focus on the actions most critical to your success.

2. They Invest in Their Personal Brand and How They’re Perceived

You know what they say: Perception is reality. Successful executives seek to understand how they’re currently perceived, and then work to align it with how they want to be seen.

The way others perceive you can significantly impact your career opportunities and, by extension, your income and wealth accumulation over time. Successful business leaders recognize this and actively work to make sure their personal brand effectively conveys their strengths and values.

Many of our clients work with executive coaches to get professional guidance in their career journey. A coach assists you in identifying your strengths and pinpointing opportunities for growth and future success. They can help you effectively navigate change, develop your executive presence and leadership skills, and ensure that your personal brand projects exactly what you intend.

There are informal and formal ways to go about gathering information related to your brand, including these three methods recommended by executive coach and recent podcast guest, Deborah Brecher:

  • Board of Directors: Establish your very own board of directors. This consists of four to six people from various walks of life including those inside and outside your organization. They should know you well enough to comment meaningfully about how they see you.
  • Ask for Feedback: If a board of directors isn’t possible for you, try asking directly for feedback. Stick to requesting input from your boss, HR department, or your peers rather than from subordinates who may be less inclined to tell the truth.
  • 360 Feedback Process: Another option is to solicit anonymous feedback in reports and surveys. Multi-rater feedback like that used in 360-degree feedback allows everyone who works closely with you to share their input without fear of retribution.

Beyond impacting your career and wealth-building opportunities, your personal brand can also help you prioritize actions and focus on the things that will increase the likelihood that perception and reality are aligned.

For example, let’s say you want to be seen as an innovative thought leader in your space. In order to build this reputation for yourself, you could speak at industry conferences, write articles on the latest trends or predictions, and actively participate in social media discussions with other industry leaders. By deliberately shaping this public image of a forward-thinking leader, you can open doors to new partnerships, projects, and career opportunities.

3. They are Excellent Negotiators

Those who have mastered executive presence know how to negotiate. Negotiating is a skill that takes time and practice to develop – it can be difficult and emotionally draining. When done well and from a place of goodwill, negotiating can be a process of value creation that leaves both parties better off, which is particularly important when it comes to building personal wealth.

Marc. W. Modica at Darden presents four pillars for thinking through the negotiating process and assessing the quality of an agreement reached through negotiation:

  • Outcome: Each party in a negotiation should be materially better off than with the respective alternatives when an agreement is made. Ask yourself, “Am I satisfied with the terms and conditions of the agreement?” Your answer should inform your decision if you are still at the negotiating table.
  • Process: Did you feel satisfied with how the process of negotiation took place? Gratifying processes lead to more gratifying outcomes, leaving us happier and less concerned with whether something marginal was left on the table.
  • Relationships: Do these conversations lead to better relationships with trust and mutual respect?
  • Sustainability: Is the deal built to last? Does it have the necessary flexibility to accommodate the reality of change?

Successfully negotiating an executive compensation package can be one of the biggest drivers for personal wealth creation, particularly when it comes to stock-based compensation. When equity is part of the package, as it often is, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to the mix of stock awards, the metrics that will be used to measure success, and the amount of cash compensation to expect.

In a recent episode of our OFF THE WALL podcast, Laura Balser, Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry, discussed how you can make the most of RSUs and PSUs as part of a compensation package. Balser recommends balancing both short-term and long-term goals as part of your negotiation process, and I strongly encourage you to listen to our podcast episode with her for more negotiation tips and strategies!

It’s also essential to understand that wealth is about more than just the dollar amount in your bank account or the numbers in your compensation package. You should make sure what you’re offered fits into your wealth plan and will support your personal goals and priorities.

For example, equity-based compensation comes with risks. After all, the shares granted to you are hypothetical shares that could increase or decrease in value by the time they vest. While this type of equity-based compensation has great wealth-building potential, it can also impact your personal cash flows and create over-concentration in your company’s stock or industry. If shares decline in value by the time they vest, your overall compensation may not be what you hoped.

A wealth manager can review your compensation options and help you understand the implications for your personal wealth picture. Once your compensation package is decided, they’ll make sure the rest of your portfolio is balanced to reduce concentration risk and ensure you are planning appropriately for taxes and cash flows along the way.

4. They Communicate Effectively

The best leaders and executives I’ve seen have great communication skills. Whether they are communicating with their board, fellow executives, or employees in the organization, successful leaders know how to share pertinent information, what medium to use, and the importance of nonverbal cues. At the highest levels of leadership, this is particularly important when it comes to setting a vision and influencing various groups of stakeholders to achieve that vision.

By “communicate,” I don’t just mean words on paper or a company motto. Instead, they live and breathe their vision with crystal clarity. In order to execute their vision and achieve long-term success, authenticity and clear communication, both verbal and nonverbal, are key to getting the necessary buy-in and alignment up, down, and across an organization.

This is easier said than done…which is why there are business school classes devoted entirely to leadership communication!

If you are a leader looking to level up your communication skills, don’t underestimate the power of consistent practice and rehearsal. What do professional athletes and concert pianists have in common besides being peak performers at the top of their games? They dedicate enormous amounts of time to practicing to hone their skills. Leaders at the top of their games practice as well.

Setting a vision and communicating it effectively isn’t limited to the professional realm. This is just as crucial in the personal realm, especially when it comes to building and using wealth to achieve a vision.

Usually, executives aren’t going it alone when it comes to their vision for their future. They may have partners or families, teams of advisors, and others involved in their life and wealth journeys. The ability to clearly communicate a vision increases the likelihood that everyone and everything is working in alignment when it comes to executing on that vision, whether it’s transferring wealth and values to the next generation, creating a charitable legacy, or simply enjoying a certain kind of lifestyle in the future.

The Link Between Developing Executive Presence and Wealth Management

Rising to the ranks of a top executive or growing a successful business both come with increased opportunities to lead and influence others while growing your personal brand and wealth potential. Once you’ve reached a point in your career where you’re ready to make a serious plan for your future, hiring professionals to guide you in navigating your career and finances is a smart move.

A wealth manager can help you plan for the future using the information you have today along with your goals for the future to model probabilities of success when it comes to planning for your retirement, preparing for a business exit, passing wealth to your children, and more.

If you’re looking for a financial professional who understands the ins and outs of growing and preserving your wealth as a founder or executive, we’d love to help. Monument Wealth Management offers honest, transparent advice, no matter how complex your financial portfolio may be.

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Emily M. photo

Emily M. Harper, CFP®

Vice President & Partner

Emily’s background in the financial industry began after she graduated from the University of Virginia. During a seven-year run in various advisory and leadership roles at a global asset management firm, Emily acquired four industry licenses, a certificate in Financial Planning from UVA, and her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation.

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