Developing a Leadership Presence that Works

3 min read
(May 10, 2023)

Debra Benton ( is a globally recognized executive coach, best-selling, award-winning business author, and popular conference keynote speaker on leadership and executive effectiveness. Top CEO Coaches named Benton as one of the Top 10 coaches in the world, along with Ram Charan, Tony Robbins, and Marshall Goldsmith. Her client list includes Microsoft, Citi, Kellogg's, Campbell's, GE, AT&T, American Express, Pepsi, United Airlines, Time Warner, McKenzie Company, Verizon, Dell, NASA, Hollywood's Elite, and the Washington Beltway. She's appeared on Good Morning America, Today, and CNN. In addition, she has written for numerous publications, including Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Financial Times, and Harvard Business Review, and has written ten books on business, executive presence, and leadership.

In this episode with Soulful CXO Host, Dr. Rebecca Wynn, Benton shares:

  • Knowing what type of leader you are and who resonates with you
  • Imposture syndrome and personal insecurities
  • Taking responsibility for the persona, the image, and the presence that you want to have

Who is Debra Benton? In her own words, she helps very good people and very good people do even better. When listening (or watching) the podcast, her authenticity is undeniable, and that quality keeps you engaged through the entire episode. If that is one of the qualities she is coaching her clients on, it’s understandable how she is rated as one of the top 10 coaches globally.

Leadership Styles

In Benton’s words, all leaders must have an executive presence. Being the smartest person in the room, and having the highest title, is not what makes someone a leader; being memorable is. The objective is for people to see you as memorable, impressive, credible, genuine, trustworthy, and confident in your own skin; you want people to want to emulate you. In essence, that is a leader.

Benton notes that all leadership styles are different, and the stage and age of the company and team will often dictate the necessary leadership style. An example she provides is of start-up companies that will require visionary leaders; Zuckerberg and Musk are visionary leaders who can focus on what will happen and potentially what could happen. However, in the case of a company where things are going well, you require a leader who can keep things running. Those leaders may need to work with diverse people with different thinking patterns and get them to work together on the same page.

Ultimately, the leadership style that overrides all other styles is one where they’re considerate, maintain others' self-esteem, and accept others' character, motive, and ability without judgment.

Imposter Syndrome - Everyone Has It

Imposter syndrome is a phrase we hear more frequently; at RSAC 2023, Reet Kaur, the CISO of Portland Community College, gave a presentation titled "I Am Not Worthy" - Battling Imposter Syndrome in Information Security which focused on a journey from a non-information security background professional to a CISO while fighting imposter syndrome.

According to Psychology Today, People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them. Those with imposter syndrome are often well accomplished; they may hold high office or have numerous academic degrees.

Benton notes that almost everyone feels imposter syndrome at some point. Politicians, business leaders, and community leaders all feel it, and it has to do with one’s insecurities. Some may be better at camouflaging it, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with the same feelings.

They dove into how to “fake it til you make it” and being your authentic self. It’s essential to be consistent with your presence, messaging, and communication to ensure you are your best self and know that you are always being watched and judged in the business environment, as well as social platforms.

Cultural Changes In Business

Expectations have changed significantly over the years, both for employers and employees. In general, employees are more demanding than ever, and leaders who have been in the workplace for a long time will struggle with this new era and need to adjust their leadership style accordingly.

Those looking to join a new company can do ample research in advance to understand a company. Look at LinkedIn profiles of executives in the company, read articles, and learn as much as possible – do your due diligence. Know what you can, but still come in with an enquiring attitude, learn, and ask questions. Don’t go in with the intent to start making changes on day one; focus on asking questions and more questions.

Dr. Wynn and Benton offer a plethora of good leadership nuggets throughout the episode. They are both authentic and natural in their discussion, making this an enjoyable and must-listen podcast.

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