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Unpacking Executive Presence With Kore Koubourlis

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

The first time I met Kore Koubourlis, she exuded personal presence. I noticed her right away when she walked in the room: confident, friendly and personable.

So I wasn't surprised to find that it was one of her specialty areas as an executive coach.

Often misunderstood but an important aspect of leadership, Kore shares what executive presence is and why it's so important as a leader. Enjoy!

How and when did we first meet?

We were introduced by our mutual friend, Patricia Bravo, in the summer of 2019. Patricia wanted us to meet because she thought we’d enjoy knowing other businesswomen in the local community.

You got your law degree at Harvard and, after a long career as an attorney, transitioned into coaching leaders and organizations. What inspired you to make such a big change?

I was inspired by my own transition from attorney to senior business leader while working at Microsoft. I had crossed over to the business side to lead the work building the privacy, security, and compliance platform for cloud that would enable scale, trust, and a global operational model. I made the leap without really appreciating the magnitude of the transition. Going through that transition, learning to be resilient, and moving up the ranks to the executive level – sometimes in spite of myself – was incredibly tough and also incredibly rewarding. I had to stretch and grow in many ways. I feel strongly about using my experience to guide others so they can move through obstacles and get on with contributing positive impact without the personal cost.

One of your areas of coaching expertise is presence. How did that get to be a specialty topic for you?

So many incredibly talented professionals get the feedback that they need to develop executive presence. Most of us know something about it, and most of us have experienced it, but we don’t necessarily trust our own ability to summon it on a reliable basis. The mystery surrounding this topic – what it is, how to cultivate it, and how to live in it consistently – called out to be addressed.

The term executive presence is broad and not always understood so please unpack it for us.

Presence is a complex and deeply personal topic. Executive presence has a lot to do with confidence, conviction, and credibility; in other words, are you showing up in a way that signals you believe you are the right person to be telling me the things you are telling me and doing the things you are doing. But it isn’t one size fits all. Different presence is called for depending on industry, geography, functional area, career stage, and personal goals, so context matters. And we also need to understand the client’s personal relationship to claiming their own authority. Often, if presence is up for you, there may be deep-seated barriers to really stepping into a powerful presence. We need to understand those barriers so that we can work with and ultimately grow beyond them.

Why is presence so important?

Presence is how we affect others, the energy we bring (or take away) from the things we are involved in. We want to be certain our presence is working for us, not against us, otherwise it’s like we are driving with our foot on the brakes. And that diminishes the impact we can have in the world.

How does one develop or enhance their presence?

A lot of people think of executive presence as something you’re either born with or not — like charisma or great cheekbones. I think about executive presence a bit differently. I think about it instead as something you practice, like yoga, or law. One quick way to begin practicing is to study one or two of the individuals around you who really shine; what is it they do? Pick one thing at a time and run experiments with that habit in your own life, modifying it to make it your own. To accelerate your development, solicit input from advisors (trusted friends, mentors, a coach) that help you identify your own blind spots and address them efficiently.

Are there any "watch out" areas when practicing building presence?

Watch out for what I’ve come to think of as the authenticity trap. Just because something feels uncomfortable doesn’t mean it isn’t authentic. Personal work can get pretty uncomfortable, especially when we come up against our edges. And when we do, it can be really tempting to retreat into the familiar. This happens because we reason that if something feels comfortable, it must be our true or authentic nature, and if that is true then we don’t need to change. Pushing through that discomfort is often necessary to evolve our self-concept toward our highest potential.

Thanks Kore! Tell us a bit more about you in our rapid fire round!

  • What you miss about practicing law: My colleagues

  • What you don't miss about practicing law: Surprises

  • Memorable vacation spot: Tsagarada, Greece

  • Favorite leisure activity or athletic pursuit: Changes with the season

  • Guilty pleasure: Peaky Blinders

Visit Kore's website,, to learn more about her services.

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