Get up. Stand Tall. How Executives Build Their Strong Leadership Presence
Leadership presence is and has been a hot topic for a while now. Yet, despite its popularity and widespread use as a term, it remains difficult to pinpoint what leadership presence is. That said, how to stand tall and build your own leadership presence like great executives do?
Leadership is about making others better because of your presence.
When someone looks at you, they should be able to gain confidence; they should be inspired to be more than they are. Leadership presence is the ability to connect authentically with others, inspire and influence them to act.
Having this “X factor” quality may determine if you’re able to command your audience, whether it’s in the boardroom, or simply walking into a room.
The ability to connect and engage with others in a manner that is authentic, while at the same time being positive and inspiring, may have great value. In turn, this may increase your value as a leader.
But leadership presence isn’t automatically assigned to you because you have a leadership title or potential.
And it’s not necessarily an accurate reflection of your true qualities and talents. Instead, leadership presence depends entirely on how other people evaluate you, and knowing how to influence people’s perception of you requires a deep understanding of the impact of your appearance, your body language, your emotional state, and your communication style.
Now the question is this, what are the qualities that make up leadership presence?
But how do you know if you have the presence to even influence another? Here are some of the elements that make up a leadership presence. Here are some skills and behaviors that anyone can develop to establish a stronger leadership presence and become an excellent leader.
Lead Yourself First
The greatest leaders out there learned to lead themselves first. They overcame fears, faced their inner conflicts and worked with top coaches, mentors and experts to live by example first. The end result? Traits like self-acceptance, compassion, kindness, humor and a more profound way of looking at life. This intense self-work reveals itself in a strong, positive, almost magnetic presence.
Self-doubt, feeling unworthy of your success or that others in the room know more than you, are signs you’re experiencing the impostor syndrome.
The truth is, most leaders do experience this. It’s a normal part of being ambitious. But when you don’t keep it in check, it can crush your confidence and damage your leadership presence. A powerful way to overcome your fears and perceived inadequacies — and thereby strengthen your executive presence — is through a somatic makeover. Leaders who walk into a room with authentic presence do so on a subconscious level. It’s not affect, nor is it forced. It’s just who they are.
Staying poised under pressure can be difficult, but it is essential to projecting leadership presence.
By keeping your composure in stressful situations, you appear reliable, capable, and in control — all qualities that people look for in a leader. If you don’t have a strategy for dealing with high-stress situations, here’s what likely happens: That situation becomes the trigger for a reaction commonly known as the “flight or fight” response. In other words, you literally lose your ability to think straight.
Your character should never be silent. It needs to have a voice that reflects your heart and soul.
When you lead with character, you give the essence of your identity. Your attitude as a leader influences those around you, whether it’s negative or positive. It will be felt by those around you more quickly than your actions. A great leadership presence is practiced not so much in words as in attitudes and in actions.
You can’t be a leader if you don’t have a purpose guiding you through the dark times. Purpose is like a light at the end of a tunnel; a hope that keeps us going.
One must spend time wondering the real purpose or motivation behind becoming a leader. Your purpose will act as a guiding force when things go south. As a leader, you can inspire, lead, and motivate people to achieve greater goals. If you have a clear purpose, you can ensure that the team is aligned to a common purpose.
Let Your Body Speak
It’s hard to overstate how much your physical self is involved in the way you are perceived as a leader. How you move affects the way you feel, and how you feel affects the way you move, and it all changes the way you think and communicate.
Pay attention, your body is speaking.
People may not always tell you how they feel, but they will always show you what they are thinking — you just have to pay attention to their presence. Body language sends clear message, even when people aren’t speaking. Make sure your own body language is consistent with what you say; don’t contradict yourself.
In any given situation — before you have even opened your mouth — people will form a conscious or subconscious opinion about you.
Based on the way you move and hold yourself and the way you are dressed and groomed, they will decide how much they will respect, trust and like you. As a leader, you need to embody the right balance between competence and approachability. If your body language is not aligned with what you say, others are less likely to believe you and be convinced by you. People around will always be checking for visual cues to determine your current emotional state or level of confidence.
Being physically comfortable may go a long way in radiating the right presence.
If you are fidgeting and not in control of your body, that may detract from the message you’re trying to deliver. Keeping your posture straight when sitting or standing without a hunched shoulder may speak volumes. And physical fitness can help give you control over your body. With resistance and aerobic training, you might help improve your posture and stamina as well as your confidence.
Your demeanor is often based on how confident you are.
Remaining calm and composed and exhibiting self-control may exude the confidence people are attracted to. The demeanor of leaders may be displayed in many ways, including charisma, dignity, big personality and sense of authority. These are all traits that may be improved with the right training.
Just as body language, although superficial appearance can determine the manner in which people perceive you on to a large extent because humans are visual beings. Right or wrong, a majority of the time our initial judgment is based on what we see, therefore being well groomed and dressed can be of immense importance.
Taking the time to look polished and professional signals to others that you care not only about yourself but about them as well.
Human beings are visual. Right or wrong, we often make our initial judgment based on what we see. Being well groomed and dressing the part may be very important. One way to send the message that you respect yourself is to put thought into your appearance at the office. This is particularly important if you want others to view you as a leader. A well-dressed employee stands out before he ever makes a business move.
A well-dressed leader carries an air of confidence that makes people want to listen to him.
In the long run, how you look is not nearly as important as how you act or what you say, but it can be really important when it comes to first impressions. When you give some thought into your appearance in the workplace it can really open doors for you and make sure you are given the opportunity to demonstrate your skills. Appearance is certainly not the most important part of executive presence but it does have an impact, so it’s not something that should be ignored.
Whether we like it or not, every career and industry has a uniform that signals credibility.
While seemingly not as important as competence, education, experience and ability, your personal presentation makes a difference. It’s sort of an unwritten competency for leaders. The role of leader is instantly attributed to people who look and act like leaders because what you wear tells other people how to treat you. If you want others to see you as a leader, then dress like a leader. If you would like others to take you more seriously, then dress more seriously.
Dressing professionally doesn’t have to mean stifling your individuality.
In fact, I suggest you use your personal style to distinguish yourself as a leader. A signature accessory — like funky ties or socks, unique jewelry, or shoes — can convey your creativity and originality. Whatever you wear, consider how it makes you feel, and how it fits your brand and the organization’s culture. You don’t have to sacrifice your identity. Be authentic and seek out something that enhances your brand and your company’s brand.
Wire People Up
Leadership presence is defined by four behaviors: being present, connection, expressing and self-knowing. Connection is by far the behavior that makes the greatest impact on people. Someone can be a powerful orator, but without personal connection, the impact is diminished.
When talking about leadership presence, we often think about charismatic, larger than life leaders who command everybody’s attention.
In reality, if you want to influence others to act, you need to first reach out and connect with them. Connecting, listening, showing curiosity, expressing empathy and appreciation are essential skills to make others feel that you value them and their opinions. This is also where trust comes into the picture: How do you show up as your real, authentic self? How do you make others feel safe with you? How can you let the spotlight shine on others instead of yourself?
Leaders who make the connection are perceived as more relatable and down to earth, which creates greater trust and loyalty.
You need the skills to inform others, engage with others, and advise others in a clear and concise way that can be implemented and followed. The art of communication is the language of leadership. When you understand others deeply, you can understand how they see you as well. Be open to feedback, have meaningful communication, and practice active listening.
Your ability to connect with others has everything to do with how you make people feel.
Which is why the most important skill for connection is empathetic listening. If you already rank high in empathy, you gain a genuine professional advantage. If not, empathetic listening is a skill worth further developing. Ignore the urge to prematurely offer your opinion or advice. Often, people just want to express their feelings and point of view. Make sure someone asks for your help before you offer it.
Real leadership is purely relational. It begets genuine engagement and trust.
Use every opportunity to engage with people rather than broadcasting to rooms or groups. With this orientation, you will no longer perceive yourself as a lone leader, separate from others, and neither will anybody else. Even those who don’t speak will feel more comfortable and more receptive to a productive relationship with you, because it’s now clear that you are open to dialogue.
Stick To Your Values
If you don’t know who you are and what you stand for, how will others know? People connect with people they trust. This trust comes from a sense of knowing where they stand with you. So get clear on your personal principles. Then live and breathe these in every interaction you have.
People trust those who do what they say they will do.
They respect those who stand by their convictions and whose values cannot be shaken. They are consistent and deeply committed to doing the right thing for the right reason. People are drawn to integrity because it is a trait that they feel eludes them. When they see it in others, they follow them hoping to be inspired to make better personal choices.
To achieve presence you need to be authentic and say and do what you believe.
People naturally respond to a person who is authentic. Clear and explicit values will anchor you whenever you have to make difficult choices. They will also inspire and guide those working together with you. What are the values you want to convey in your leadership and as a human being? What do you stand for and what do you want to be remembered for?
Leaders know what they value. They also recognize the importance of ethical behavior.
The best leaders exhibit both their core values and their ethics in their leadership style and actions. Your leadership ethics and values should be visible because you live them in your actions every single day. To walk your talk as a leader is the most significant way in which you demonstrate why employees can trust you and that you are an ethical and principled leader.
Know what matters most and least to you. Make decisions based off of that.
When you communicate from your values you connect to your passions. When you speak with passion, people are drawn to you, are more likely to hear your message and you will be more successful in persuading and influencing. As a leader it should be self-evident why your values matter in this way.
In essence, leadership presence typically entails being well-rounded and comfortable in your own skin — no matter the setting. It’s a quality that often makes the people around you feel just as comfortable, putting them at ease, so they can be receptive to what you have to say.
Presence is much more than just being there, it’s about adding value and making a difference for yourself and those around you.
Someone who is courageous, trustworthy, genuine, tenacious, tough-minded, having an optimistic and positive outlook, can have a significant leadership presence. When you develop your leadership presence with positive qualities in your professional life, this can be sure to prepare you in confidently taking up that leadership role when the time finally arrives.
There’s no doubt that displaying leadership presence will help set you up for that next promotion or give your career an extra boost by making you stand out from your peers.
Leaders who have a strong leadership presence have learned to communicate what matters to them in a way that connects with what matters to others. Ultimately, it’s about developing consistency between what you believe, say and do in a manner that builds trust.
Leaders who have executive presence have a style that is entirely their own.
They do not need to imitate or mimic other great leaders. It could be their mannerisms, the passionate way they talk about their advocacy, or how they use funny stories to communicate important messages. No matter what it is, there’s something utterly unique that sets them apart.
Remember, you are not aiming to construct a new persona, but to bring out the best version of yourself.
Having read this article, you may already have a sense of your own strong and weak areas. There is no right or wrong place to start working on your presence, and no need for a total make-over. Is leadership presence something you’ve thought about? How do you know it when you see it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.