Executive Presence…also for Women

Executive Presence…also for Women

As we are approaching the last quarter, the minds of corporate managers and executives start leaning in, with a mix of anticipation and dread, towards the end-of-year feedback. ‘What should be my next year’s development focus?’ some wonder.

Developing ‘Executive Presence’ shows up on many feedback cards. It was a term I heard often during the appraisal review panels I used to facilitate as HR manager. For some reason, executive presence was mentioned more often about high-achieving/high-potential women than men.

In this piece I would like to demystify the importance of Executive Presence for Women, or at least redefine it through the lens of feminine leadership.

Quentin Tarantino said: Bill, Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent.

Before having Executive Presence, you need to show others that you have presence, real presence. The English dictionary defines presence as the state of being present or a personal appearance or bearing, esp. of a dignified nature or an imposing or dignified personality.

If you throw the world ‘executive’ in the mix you could easily see how this concept becomes scary for women who were taught that feminine means gentle and caring. What if we replace the world ‘executive’ with dignifying, what happens than? I could easily name Queen Elisabeth II and Mother Theresa as two women leaders with a dignifying leadership presence but with a calm under toned energy instead of the confident executive presence.

The Leadership presence is like old wine, you can only enjoy it when you have truly understood, accepted and loved who you really are, your core personality, with both strengths and shadows.

But how about this famous Latin saying:

‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ says a Latin Quote.

When operating in a certain corporate culture, the so called ‘executive presence’ of an individual has less to do with the individual and more to do with the organizational culture biases towards a certain type of leader. In companies with charismatic CEO founders, there is a tendency to develop a ‘ mini Me’ type of leader.

The Benchmark for the executive presence is a masculine type of presence, which means that some young women wearing feminine dresses might still need to display a masculine body language and a masculine type of self-confidence in order to be accepted at the next level. Is it worthy it? Well, each woman will have a different answer to that question. Even I have days when I wear suit-pants, as you can see in the picture.

Beyond individual choices, what I do know is that:

Truly inclusive organizational cultures create a safe space for everyone to be themselves, this includes a space for feminine executive presence and, yes LGBT executive presence as well.

For many women, the feeling of “belonging in the room” requires overcoming personal insecurities and recognizing that they deserve to be there. Both women and men can have the ‘imposter syndrome’, but women suffer from it a bit more.
If Leadership Presence and inclusive cultures are more important than one’s Executive Presence, when does executive presence become crucial for professional business women?

The true value of Executive presence shows up during job interviews. Recruiters will judge your executive presence based on how you shook their hand, looked in the camera during the zoom call or giggled at their side comments. They will feel if you followed the mood or inspired it.

According to Gerry Valentine , “In its simplest terms, Executive presence is the ability to inspire confidence… it’s something you can cultivate and build.”

He defines it through a combination of personality and character traits that make a dynamic executive. The executive presence character traits that make a good impression during an interview are: composure, confidence, credibility, character, command, consciousness(ability to manage time) and connection.

That being said, a woman will show command and connection differently than a men. Please don’t try to be someone else but do try to flex your style to fit the situation and the interviewees.

If you are not Superman or Wonder woman, and you still feel that you need to work on honing in your executive presence, here are my 3 tips:

  1. Know yourself (your strengths, vulnerabilities and biases), but be willing to get out of your comfort zone, to flex your style without forgetting your core essence
  2. Know that you are not the centre of the universe – focus your attention on others, on the big issues of these world and be willing to not take yourself too seriously. The less you talk about yourself, the more executive you sound.
  3. Give yourself the time to Pause, Listen, Reflect and then talk or act.

And a bonus tip for Executive Presence on email, do follow the New York Times rule – don’t put anything in an email today you wouldn’t want to read in the New York Times tomorrow.

Would your lawyer or your grand-mother be upset about it, than don’t send it. All emails are or can be read by others, they don’t belong to you.

As a last thought… have you made up your mind, wether you want to “dress like the Romans”, or not? Do you know how others might be perceiving your executive presence?

If you want to increase your executive presence while staying true to who we are, I might be able to help. Let’s get in touch.

Steliana Economu is the author of Mothers as Leaders and a leadership coach specialised in emotional and positive intelligence( PQ and EQ). If you liked this article and want to enjoy more of this type of resources do follow mothersasleaders.com

It’s ok to feel alone, even when you are not alone

It’s ok to feel alone, even when you are not alone

When someone tells you, ‘I feel alone’ , your heart breaks and every human bone in you wants to save him. Still, is that the right thing to do?

Loneliness is one of the strongest emotions. It can be the cause of dangerous self-harm decisions or even depression but, when harvested properly, this strong emotion can lead to some of the most innovative pieces of art, music or creative writing. Did you know that during the isolation from the plague Shakespeare wrote ”King Lear’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’? Sir Isaac Newton was quarantined when he devised his Theory of Gravity and his law of motion, while Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’ during a massive volcano eruption.

In a 7 billion people world that invests heavily in digital social platforms, hybrid communities, clubs, dating aps, festivals and overcrowded campuses there seems to be no space for feeling alone, just with your thoughts and feelings… for feeling the pain of loneliness, digesting it, without having to talk about it or needing reassurance. The more we postpone the need for ‘loneliness’ and the need for deep self-reflection, the more we deprive our inner artist and the Sage within us to create and to make sense of the world around us.
The pandemic and lock-downs made loneliness taboo.

If you are feeling alone there is no rational argument that is going to convince you otherwise. Loneliness is an emotion not a rational thought. Still, people around you will try to cheer you up. Family, friends, team-mates and even nice neighbours will jump in the saviour role when hearing the word: ‘alone’.

The only time when loneliness seems to be accepted in modern society is when people get older and they retire or loose their partner. Unfortunately that’s when they need other people most.There is an expectation that children, teenagers, young people and even middle-agers need to spend every minute of their life learning, having fun, socializing or being productive. There is no time for being lonely.

The best time to get comfortable with the emotion of loneliness is when you move from childhood to puberty and young adulthood

I grew up in a large family and we did a lot of fun stuff at the farm. I was always surrounded by people and animals but my most vivid memories, when my view of the worlds got shaped, were the lonely moments when I was hiding under the dinner table during the day while everyone else was outside. It was during those moments that I started to draw, write poems and dream about the world.

Because I learned not to be afraid to be alone, I took my time in choosing a partner. After being happily married for more than 10 years, my husband still jokes about my need for space and my right to be left alone.

As a parent I wonder how much time do I allow weekly for my children to be truly free to experience loneliness and the company of their own person.We tell our kids about unconditional love and self-acceptance, but how can you develop compassionate love for yourself, if you didn’t take the time to fully experience and enjoy loneliness.

There is a way to harvest loneliness. You can transform it from being the emotion that drags you down a hole of inertia into being the emotion that awakens your creative side of your brain.

Try these simple habits:

1. Allow your body to notice and fully experience the inner lonely emotion.

2. Stop judging and blaming yourself for feeling lonely – it’s ok, you are not alone in being alone.

3. Reframe loneliness into a positive outcome by asking yourself:

– What am I Iearning about myself and the world during these moments of loneliness?

– Which inner power am I developing as I am going through this?

– What do I feel inspired to initiate because of my pain and loneliness?

4. Start keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings during the moments of loneliness and during the moments of happiness – by reading its pages, in time, you will demystify the feeling of being alone and give it the right place.

A recent 2020 study shows that when you get lonely, that’s when you can become incredibly creative. The part in your brain involved in memory and social recognition goes through changes when you experience loneliness and the part of your brain involved in developing imagination expands.It’s almost as if you create space for innovation.

Next time when you feel lonely intercept the voice of your inner judge who might tell you that you are a victim of circumstances, or of the other people.

Instead, allow yourself the opportunity to grow the creative genius in you.

Steliana Economu is the author of Mothers as Leaders and a leadership coach specialised in positive intelligence and EQ. If you liked this article and want to enjoy more of this type of resources do follow mothersasleaders.com

The busy ‘hybrid’ life! What can you cut-back on?

The busy ‘hybrid’ life! What can you cut-back on?

Time management is the number one issue quoted in most of my coaching sessions. Moms are famous for ‘to do lists’  instead of ‘cut-back’ lists.  The best lessons in prioritization I took during our move from Europe exactly a year ago – we had 30 days to use that one-entry exception visa. When the Mission is clear and the boundaries specific, you find creative ways to cut-back on energy wasting activities.

What is your ‘crisis’? What will motivate you to cut-back on non-adding value activities in your job? 

In our enthusiasm of getting back to normal after 2 years of pandemic, we can open the gate to a new suite of activities that were not there before: networking events, face-to-face meetings, social engagements or obligations. These new agenda items get added to our previous virtual meetings at 6.30 am. Building social connections is important but how can you choose to what to say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to.

Instead of the traditional Importance/ Urgency time management matrix, trying using 2 other dimensions:

  • What gives me/drains my energy?
  • What adds value to my business  or my personal  goals…and what doesn’t?

How much family-chores do you do comparing with the rest of the family? Can you share more with your partner? Can you convince your kids to do more? What training and incentives do they need?

In today’s hybrid work of working 2-3 days in the office and 2 from home, we can find ourselves working all the time. Because when you finish the meetings and other networking events you still find yourself with all the follow-up emails and tasks that end-up being completed Friday night or even worse during the weekend.

At home you still have your family, partner, pets .. and there are still the little house chores. Even the most privileged among us that can afford a regular cleaner and fresh ready made-meals delivery end up with weekly chores.  That’s life when you have children… or pets, or other family members to care for.

My wake-up call came few weeks back when I had to quarantine from my family  – at the end of the 5-days there was a disaster zone. I realised that I never taught my children of 7 and 10 how to do the ‘basics’ when I am not there. Dirty dishes were left on the counter and socks on the floor. The crisis showed me that I need to train my kids to do house-chores and to execute their daily ‘beauty’ routine without me.

Together with my husband we made a Family Weekly activities list and ‘invited’ the kids to choose age appropriate task they can execute for an appropriate incentive. We had three-points tasks, like ‘preparing breakfast for the entire family’ and one-point tasks like unloading the dishwasher. I am not saying we are jedi-parents, we only completed week 1 successfully and we have some traction for week 2. The kids were happy to receive their incentive (weekly pocket-money) despite getting minus points for not making the bed, but I was even happier.  I found myself tracking the time I spent and  mentally giving myself: 3/2/1 point when I finished a task. It made me value my time and to see the small tasks not like a chore but a learning opportunity for a 7-year old boy to learn survival skills.

What will motivate you to share and delegate the family chores with the entire family? What incentives are you willing to put in place? How much time are you willing to invest in tracking and training? 

The secret to creating the family-team spirit when it comes to house-chores is to invest enough time at the beginning with your partner to frame  it as an opportunity not as a chore. Every family is different. I know my kids need to have an element of choice and incentive in everything they invest their energy in. They also appreciate fairness and honesty.


Steliana Economu is an executive leadership coach specialised in positive intelligence. If you like this  article and you want to enjoy more of this type of resources follow  mothersasleaders.com 


Why do women trust men less and viceversa

There is  a worldwide gap of trust at the moment and it is making me sad.

 It is not only the divide between Russia and the rest of the world, it’s not only the divide between the BlackLivesMatter and the whitesupremacy in the US , it’s not only the immigration versus nonimmigration in Europe, it is a much bigger divide and with wider implications. 

It  is a growing  worldwide deterioration in trust between women and men. 

The rise of the feminist movement and the me-too campaign had many positives but they also brought with them some side effect: women and men start trusting each other less. The impact is most visible in the teenagers, young adult and singles.  

In this apparently danger littered world people rely on the dating apps algorithms more than they rely on their brain, their heart or  on their hormonal impulses. As a teenager, how can you rely  on your judgement about trusting a boy or a girl when you discover everything you need to know on google, tiktok or tinder. 

How can you fall in love, when you are not vulnerable?

Beyond the obvious dating impact, I noticed the deterioration of trust in the entrepreneurial sector as well. Ever since I wrote the “mothers as leaders’ I have been ushered towards Female networks, mumpreneurship, women financial grants, women mentors and so on. Even within the well-respected International Coaching Federation I kept being matched with other women coaches. In the last reciprocal coaching round I wrote in my application that I want to be matched with a man to make the diversity happen. Bud has been a wonderful executive coach because he didn’t label me as a mumpreneur.

Maybe you work in a global corporate company and you don’t see the issue. You are part of a global gender diverse team and you trust your male colleagues as much as you trust your female colleagues.

 But let’s look a little bit under the hood. During the pandemic and you even now during the   hybrid working culture, you learned to build trust with your colleagues via the virtual channels, Zoom or MSteams has been your meeting place. You do  build trust but you build what I call:  the Intellectual level trust. 

Which means, you trust someone to ping you or message you if something doesn’t work out or if there is bad news. 

If you have a great amount of intellectual trust – you might even trust her to pick up the phone unexpected. In the corporate world that it is a big step – a phone call without planning a meeting it’s a big thing. 

Intellectual trust works well for normal circumstances but when you want the psychological safety type of trust that breeds innovation and higher performance, you need to be able to pop by her desk unexpected. When you really care about someone and you have a deep mutual trust you need to be able to ring his doorbell when he doesn’t show up at work or answers the phone and you need to not feel hugely uncomfortable about it. If you are his boss or the HR manager it might even be part of your job description.

If you think you are part of a great team, ask yourself: How many people in your team would do that for you?  From those, how many are of the opposite sex?

Trust is the noble bloodstream that flows through our veins and arteries providing the essential ingredients for our heart and our brain.  It is like oxygen for our society ability to cooperate and thrive. As a leadership coach and consultant, I spend a lot of coaching hours listening to interpersonal issues around trust and emotions.

Based on my 43 years of experience of being a woman and on 20 years building trust within global organizations, here are my 10 tips for building trust with women, both in business and in the private life.

  1. See it as a Partnership – if you see yourself as superman, she sees herself as wonder woman, no one likes to be saved
  2. Keep your promise and hold your Duty – reliability is what gets you the meeting nr 2, 3 and so on
  3. When you can’t keep your promise say it in time – nobody likes a cover-up and when women smile it is not always a sign of approval
  4. Don’t walk away from Responsibility and commitment – when she talks about her family it’s a good sign, even in business relations 
  5. Cherish open communication – if she wants to share about her day, it means she likes you.
  6. Invest daily in keeping up the GOOD Spirit – Humor and positive thinking is what makes a man desirable not money or muscle
  7. Recognize and appreciate effort not just results – when a woman puts time in something she wants to be appreciated  for it, she doesn’t only do it for fun.
  8. Listen until the end and don’t jump to solutions – it is your ability to listen that will get you closer to a business deal, not your brilliant solution
  9. Develop common goals, dreams and plans – your willingness to collaborate and cooperate shows you are self-confident and that’s women want from men
  10. Embrace the Word: TOGETHER😊

It’s time to start reinventing the trust between men and women working together. It’s not enough to recruit gender diverse teams, you need to invest in building trust across genders.

When structures are lost, when we become informal, when we don’t know others well enough we tend to hang around with people like us.It is a famous likeability  bias.

What would it take to step out of the  imaginary gender bubble and trust equally  both men and women you just met.

It starts with a small step: be aware of who do you talk to during the coffee breaks and make a change.

What have you learned in 2021?

What have you learned in 2021?

As we come to the end of 2021, the optimist in me is somehow surprised that no miracle has happened. How come nobody came to save us from this new reality of living with the COVID pandemic. I belong to a generation that was brought up   with numerous ‘end of the world’ type  movies with a strong hero and a happy ending. If you work hard and play our small part, eventually things will get better, I was told.  Well, this time each of us has to step up and be a hero in his or her own  way, it seems.

The battle is not out there with the rest of the world, but it is with our own mind and our own soul.

If you are forced to spend Christmas at home alone, in self-isolation or even worse in the hospital how do you keep yourself motivated to fight and to hope for a better future?  A friend who returned home after a month of hospitalization told me that it was a vision of himself in a future moment that kept his hope. He is now appreciating life and the wonderful people in his life with a renewed gratitude.


After the shock and drama of 2020, this year proved to be in some way predictable. As with any dramatic change, we moved from the shock of 2020 lockdown, the anger a of street demonstrations and anti-vaccine campaigns to the acceptance of the fact that we have to live with the reality of changing pandemics and climate change. One of the most influential books I read in my youth is Steven R. Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people’ brings up the difference between Proactive focus, when positive energy enlarges the circle of influence you have and the Reactive focus, when negative energy reduces the circle of influence.

 I think 2021 has finally given us the chance to reconsider our Circle of Influence and to make conscious choices about how we let our positive or negative emotions to influence us.


Through my executive coaching practice,   I had the honour to support the personal learning journey of numerous  clients who chose to invest in training their positive intelligence and mental fitness. Being of service for their learning  and being a witness to their career achievements that followed was the most rewarding present of this year.


2021  has been a year of resilience. It has certainly been a year of change and resilience  for me. In January I was growing my new business in The Netherlands and at the end of May I was joggling several speaking engagements with packing and moving  my family to Texas, Houston.


What I learned is that you need to expect the unexpected and  to stay focused on your Circle of Influence, day after day. We managed to settle in the new house  in  45 days and the kids adapted easily to the new school. My coaching practice transitioned to the new realities  and I got used to waking up really early in the morning. The hardest work was to make sure I keep my negative thoughts in check while waiting for things to fall in their place.


Throughout the move to a new country and a new social reality, the one thing that became clear to me is how lucky I am to share this new adventure with a husband that enjoys parenthood, changes and cultural differences as much as I do. When you can’t visit your family and old friends anymore being able to laugh and have fun together is a non-negotiable. That’s how the idea for my new book was born : Families as Teams (spoiler alert).

 At the end of the year, let’s not forget to raise a glass and thank the person who was our companion  throughout the hard-working year of  2021.


 Happy Holidays !


Steliana Economu is an executive leadership coach specialised in positive intelligence. If you like this  article and you want to enjoy more of this type of resources follow  mothersasleaders.com 










How do women and men define (fun) partnerships?

How do women and men define (fun) partnerships?

Women and men appreciate humour differently, we all intuitively know that, but what does it mean for doing business. What does it mean for building partnerships and preserving trust?

In my experience the topic of trust and loyalty comes up after several rounds of team coaching with gender diverse executive teams. Why? There is this expectations that when you grow-up you  are not allowed to mix fun with work. ‘In business we are not boys and girls, we are business professionals. ‘  That’s what our Inner critique would say. When you surrender to gender neutrality you loose your secret weapons, your super power, the strengths that made you the responsible grown-up that you are right now.

When you were six year old and playing in the school yard you were sometimes given the task to choose the team for your next play. What an honour, that was. But who would you choose? Did you ask for the school statistics on who was the fastest runner? No, you first looked at your group of friends and you choose some of them, because…you had fun with them. Then, you looked around and you chose some kids who could run or catch well. It was all a’ fast think’ type decision, full of biases, but …real.

We don’t have the luxury to choose our team like this anymore, but that innate desire to have fun and experience joy  with your team is still in us. Let’s not ignore it just because we are now doing virtual working.  The Sage part of your brain, the one who brings creativity and innovation is stimulated by positive emotions not by ‘must do’ commandments.

Why is humour important in building partnerships?

Well, imagine eating your favourite omelette without salt and pepper.

Beyond, written contractual terms, partnerships are no less than human interactions based on the trust that together you can achieve more than alone. However trust is quite subjective to the one who offers it, so how does someone knows how to trust that you are not going to ‘stab  him in the back’. Well, in middle ages you left the sword and knifes at their feet. Now you need to show vulnerability through your choice of humour. It is risky, they might not like it but that’s exactly the point. You are taking a risk to be vulnerable and that’s what creates trust, both with men and women.

‘It takes two to tango’ – Why partnerships? 

How many times have you struggled on your own with a  project when it would to partner? How many times have you done an extra chore in the house  when you knew well that it was your partner’s turn?

I must confess I was guilty of both and that’s what triggered me to write this.  You only need to watch two tango dancers to realise the beauty of partnership between a man and woman.  The complimentary traits that build harmony, power and beauty. That’s why, study after study show that diverse teams perform so much better than homogeneous teams.

What are the secret tips for successful partnerships at home and at work?

There are many business books on building partnerships and as a young Business graduate I went through all those trainings while in University. Still, the wisdom of ones who spent more than 10,000 hours on a skill is what we should be looking for. I interviewed a business expert on deal making and partnerships and this is what we came up with.

Five Key Ingredients

  1. SEEK TRANSPARENCY – What does this partnership mean to each of you? Are you the small fish or the big one?
  2. DON’ T ASSUME – How can you keep the lines of communication open all the time?
  3. MAKE SURE YOU BOTH HAVE SKIN IN THE GAME – What does she/has to loose if this fails? How about you?
  4. UNDERSTAND EACH OTHERS MOTIVATION – What drives you to succeed in this partnership? Is it different?
  5. DON’T CROSS THE LINE  – What are partner most important values? How do you make sure you don’t cross the line?

As I wrote this five ingredients down I couldn’t stop thinking about my own family and how do I partner with my husband or even with my 10 year daughter or 6 year old son on some projects. What I find is that with the kids is much easier to know when you crossed the line.

Unfortunately we adults tend to bottle the important emotions and that’s what makes partnership more cumbersome.

Turning the tables

Let’s take an important partnership you would want to improve now. How would you go about it?

  • What are the top 3 Factors impacting it ?
  • What are you Assuming about each factor?
  • What is the one thing you would do now to unlock it?


About the author: Steliana Economu is an executive leadership coach specialised in positive intelligence. If like this  article and you want to enjoy more of this type of resources follow  mothersasleaders.com