8 Principles that will Change How You Think about Leadership Presence
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Leadership presence is mysterious. Like charisma, authenticity, or influence, it can be hard to describe, yet we know it when we see it. Every senior leader wants more of this secret ingredient that distinguishes the leader of work from the leader of people.
What does leadership presence really look like? It can appear in unlikely places. I’m hooked on The Voice where celebrity judges, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams, compete to convince contestants to join their team. New judge Pharrell Williams definitely has leadership presence.
Williams offers a mini-tutorial on presence each week. He isn’t the loudest or the most animated. But, he has an amazing ability to connect by appealing to what matters most to the contestants. While he is very confident, his ego isn’t visible and he is quick to compliment the other judges. He is comfortable in his own skin. Even with three other charismatic judges, he owns the room.
Leadership presence is mysterious. Like charisma, authenticity, or influence, it can be hard to describe, yet we know it when we see it.
In their book Own the Room, Su and Wilkens describe leadership presence as “the ability to consistently and clearly articulate your value proposition while influencing and connecting with others”. The connection with others is built on how you make others feel more than any specific action or formula.
The Australian Human Resources Institute conducted a study on leadership presence and the results highlighted an important distinction between leadership and presence. They concluded that effective leadership causes people to act; effective leadership presence causes people to listen.
Leadership presence is a core competency for any CEO given the dependence upon others to both listen and act. CEOs must share a vision so that others want to be part of it, demonstrate influence and create confidence in the future.
Leadership presence is part first impression and then carrying it forward over the course of longer-term relationships. Presence with staying power is built on values and character shared with confidence, influence and a big emphasis on connecting with others.
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How do you make them feel?
I believe that leadership presence is built with these principles and behaviors:
1. Check your Ego at the Door.
Others sense when your primary focus is self-interest. Bring a positive outlook that assumes collaboration with those around you. If your energy is spent on how to contribute rather than how to look good, you show up differently.
2. Really See Others in the Room.
Get up and say hello. Make good eye contact. Remember names. Convey an interest in the others involved. It starts the connection.
3. Be Yourself.
Leadership presence allows others to see who you are. There is such power in revealing yourself and sharing your views constructively, as well as showing your vulnerabilities. In longer-term relationships, it will become clear if you are wearing a disguise.
4. Be Confident with Adaptability.
This isn’t a “my way or the highway” confidence. Show confidence in your ideas and in yourself while also valuing the ideas of others too. Use your confidence in what will help ‘us’, rather than just ‘me’.
5. Be a Full Body Listener.
Presence is in large part how you engage and connect with others. Asking questions and listening to the answers shows you care about others and it’s not all about you.
6. Address First Impression Obstacles.
These can be clothing, appearance or distracting personal habits, such as always showing up late. If you make decisions that don’t fit your environment or situation you can signal not only your fashion sense, but also your judgment.
7. Embrace Your Zen.
Those with presence stay calm and cool even when there is chaos or when challenged. Rather than take these bumps personally, there is a steadiness that redirects difficult situations. This relies on that inner confidence.
8. Enjoy Being There.
This requires setting aside your “I’m so busy” mantra to be fully present. Show your unique brand of enthusiasm and optimism. Regardless of a stressful day or the work that you know is waiting – participate and engage. Set your phone aside. Others will know that time with them matters to you and that you care about the business.
Leadership presence isn’t easily placed in a box and there is no simple formula. I believe that it starts with thinking more about the experience others have in working with you than simple changes in how you talk or look.
I believe that it starts with thinking more about the experience others have in working with you than simple changes in how you talk or look.
The famous Maya Angelou quote gives clarity on the often unspoken ingredient of leadership presence. Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
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