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Whether you are a recent graduate or are already mid-career, the two main predictors of success are the same. Hard skills give us the baseline for any project or job. But what two traits give the most successful business leaders the edge that gets them ahead? Professional presence and grit are the traits that set you apart.

“Brains only take you so far. Smarts get you through the gate, but everyone in your cohort of incoming hires has the hard skills required to qualify for the position. The fact is, the link between merit and success is forged through soft skills — ones you may not be able to attain on your own.”  Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Author

Impact Performance Now

Professional Presence

A polished professional presence is one skill that branches off into so many other key behaviors, such as communication, listening, relationship management, presentation, attitude, social etiquette, dress, and appearance.

Essential components of professional presence include gravitas, communication, and appearance. These components are interrelated. “If your communication skills ensure you can command a room, your gravitas grows exponentially; conversely, if your presentation is rambling and your manner timid, your gravitas plummets. And while you may be the smartest person in the room, no one will pay much attention to what you say if they’re distracted by the coffee stains on your shirt or a neckline gaping down to your navel.”


Recent social psychology research has shown that people with grit consistently succeed more often and at a higher level than those with the sam IQ or skill set, but lack grit. According to professor and author Angela Duckworth,

“The concept of grit can often be misunderstood for an ability to withstand great amounts of pain, or play through injuries in sports. However, Duckworth uses the term “grit” to mean perseverance towards a very long term goal. She likens the concept of grit to treating life as a marathon, not as a sprint.

Grit is one of the most powerful tools we have in reaching our potential. Grit is having the discipline to sacrifice the things that feel good, for the things that are good for you.”

Want to learn more? Here are some of our most popular posts on professional presence:

Think Beyond Productivity 

Productivity. We hear and read about it every day. We all ask ourselves how to improve it, but how to get more out of every day, what productive people do before breakfast, and more. Instead of asking the same questions, let’s take a step back and look at more achievable, answerable questions that, by default, will lead to higher productivity. Read more!

3 Ways to Build Your Professional Presence & Competency

If you’ve been an employee in your organization for five years, do you have five years of experience or do you have one year of experience five times over?  

Professional competencies can get tired and before you know it, those five years have passed, but you may have been in a professional rut, not enhancing your professional skills. Read more!

5 Steps to Negotiating Successfully and Increasing Personal Effectiveness

We all face negotiations every day, all day. Even short workplace exchanges sift down to a negotiation for someone’s time, budgetary resources, or human resources. Regardless of whether you are engaging in one of these daily negotiations, or a more high-risk, high-impact situation, here are 5 steps to make your next negotiation impactful, and increase your personal effectiveness at the same time. Read more!

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Employee Development Systems (EDSI) is a mission-driven company. We know that we can increase engagement, impact, and productivity with our hallmark programs. We invite you to learn more about our programs and connect with us. 


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