“I have no idea. People who boast about their IQ are losers.” – Stephen Hawking

Few individuals better encapsulate the concept of executive presence more than Elon Musk. The CEO of Tesla is well known for his innovative thinking and vision, so it’s hardly surprising he is also a shining example of another concept central to business success: emotional intelligence.

Following reports that Tesla’s Fremont factory suffered a higher than average rate of injury, Musk pledged to personally visit the factory and perform the same tasks as his workers. At the same time, he urged them to report any and every injury.

In recent years it’s become clear that emotional intelligence is the key to executive presence, a point perfectly exemplified by Musk. Here’s how…

“A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” – Albert Einstein

What is Emotional Intelligence?

At its core, emotional intelligence is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Many claim to understand what it is, but they are frequently confusing it with simple empathy – something the majority of us have to some extent.

True emotional intelligence is a little more complex. It’s not unusual for people who lack emotional intelligence to believe they have it and pass judgement on whether others possess it or not.

Yet emotional intelligence and executive presence go hand-in-hand. You either have them, or you don’t, and the former is certainly key to the latter.

Few have true executive presence without emotional intelligence. There are several facets to the concept, let’s break them down…


Possessing an honest and accurate awareness of yourself is the start of emotional intelligence. This requires you to be both present with and connected to what is happening, not just externally, but internally. What’s going on at the deeply emotional level?

Self-awareness allows us to process the available data on a given situation, adapt to it, and act in the best possible manner (both for ourselves and others). It allows you to be fully aware of the impact you have on the world and people in it, and vice versa.

Other Awareness

Awareness doesn’t end with the self. It also requires us to be fully cognisant of what is happening to the people around us. Having a clear view of the manner in which others experience us, and the world, as well as their own situations, is essential. It allows you to be decisive, fair, adaptable, effective, understanding and empathetic in all situations. More than that, it keeps us grounded.


Finding your authentic self ensures you are coherent in the manner in which we live, and how we express and manifest the emotional impact of any given situation. Where executive presence is concerned, authenticity allows you to express and align your commitments and values, while effectively communicating who we are, and what we want.

Emotional Reasoning

While self-awareness, awareness, and authenticity are all about collecting data, emotional reasoning is about integrating that data into our thoughts, the thoughts of others, and ultimately into the decision-making process.

Decisions are rooted in emotions, and our emotional responses should be given an appropriate level of consideration as a result. Emotional reasoning enables us to manage reactivity internally, while proactively navigating the world and our various onlookers and stakeholders externally.


Finally, we come to self-management, which broadly describes the self-control we exercise over our emotional health and balance, and our actions and reactions. These things must exist in balance, and those with true executive presence and emotional intelligence are capable of managing everything happening internally, in order to best achieve their vision and goals (both personally and professionally).

The core takeaway here is that, at the end of the day, executive presence isn’t about us at all. Rather, it’s about the people around us, how we interact with an impact on them, and how we might inspire greater performance and contentment through our own example.

“My biggest mistake is probably weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality. I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.” – Elon Musk

Elon Musk certainly has this nailed down, taking time out from a notoriously busy 80-90 hour work week to personally visit his factory, complete the tasks of his employees, and listen to their concerns. Considering Musk believes it’s highly likely that artificial intelligence (AI) will be a threat to people, these actions speak far louder than words ever could, building empathy with his employees, demonstrating that he cares, and finding a way to connect.

As a TEDx and Global Professional Speaker with decades of experience, I can help you to focus upon the most important leadership attributes, and inspire you to develop your own unique formula for success mastery. Connect with me or book me to be inspired by developing an executive presence that leads to your own unique formula of success mastery, www.roitalks.com – roi@roitalks.com.