Are You a Balanced Leader? Developing Leadership Presence | Part Three in our 4 Part Series by Jaime
Leaders today need to master a number of skills to be effective. 4 Themes stand out:
People who have strong Leadership Presence demonstrate strength in communicating (verbally, in writing), physical presence, or addressing conflict. They are tenacious. They maintain a strong emotional equilibrium and don’t let real or perceived setbacks hold them back. They know when to empower others.
Strong Physical Presence
Impressions are informed more by what you are doing and less about what you are saying. Paying close attention to clothing and hygiene is a simple concept, but cannot be overstated. Too much perfume or cologne, clothing that is distracting or rumpled, too-tight or inappropriate for the situation is a distraction and forms an unpleasant perception. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, your impression is vital. Additionally, what you do with your body and the non-verbals also gives off an impression. Successful people are always aware of what their bodies are doing in any situation. Confident people take up more space, their voices are deliberate in pace, lower in range. Like in the animal kingdom, physical presence is a strong determinant of rank and position.
Strong Verbal Communication
Communication doesn’t happen simply because you said something. Real communication occurs when messages are sent and received. A lot can get in the way of a message being received. The way the message is stated, the words chosen, the way the presenter commands attention…these are all factors that either help or hinder communication. A sufficient amount of “stage presence” is required when up in front of a group. This fact does not diminish the necessity for authenticity; rather, the best speakers and presenters are the ones who are also authentic (think Martin Luther King Jr.). This authenticity helps the speaker or presenter relate with the audience and ensure the message is appropriately tailored so that it can be received.
Strong Written Communication
In this day and age of emails, text messages, and social media, written communication is king. People are bombarded with written communication. Getting YOUR written communication to stand out and ensure the audience receives the message(s) as intended is paramount. Simply stated, good writing gets your message across efficiently and effectively - no more and no less. It respects the time, intelligence, and attention span of the audience. An inability to write effectively is absolutely a career staller.
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has blind spots. Everyone experiences set-backs. Everyone needs feedback in order to grow. No exceptions. To pretend otherwise is simply foolish. Those who acknowledge their own humanity not only are more authentic leaders, but also those who will learn and grow more rapidly. Being defensive of one’s self stunts growth and will establish an unsurpassable career stall point. People do not trust those who believe they are invincible or infallible.
How do I increase my Leadership Presence?
Confidence is key. Having a strong level of awareness on the effect you are having on others – by what you say (and what you do not say), what you do, how you hold yourself, how you maintain eye contact, how quickly you bounce back and recover after real or perceived setbacks. Authentic strength and confidence divides the wheat from the chaff in leadership.
Get Authentic: The best leaders and arguably the best people are authentic. They are real, relatable, and never fake. They can speak better about their strengths and weaknesses than anyone else can speak about them. They talk candidly about where they have been, where they are, and where they are going. People don’t accuse them of having ulterior motives because they are transparent about themselves. Genuine is rare and precious for a reason. A great way to determine your level of authenticity is to do a quick post-mortem on situations to determine if you were YOU or if you were acting. If the latter, why did you feel like you couldn’t be yourself? What would help you be more authentic? What is preventing you from being you?
Get aware. Are you looking down? Are you shrinking in your space or growing in your space? Are you crossing your arms? Are you leaning? Are you playing with your hair? Are you fidgeting with your clothing? Are you chewing on your pen? Are you tapping your foot? Wake up to what your body is doing. Ask a trusted comrade to tell you what you are doing in a meeting or in a presentation. Begin working on your non-verbals. Look intently at the person who is speaking. Nod your head. Maintain eye contact. Know how much space you are taking up and whether or not that is the right amount of space. Give a strong and firm handshake. Smile when appropriate. Often your posture will determine your level of confidence. Be aware of what your body is giving off…and adjust accordingly.
Get non-defensive: Get comfortable with feedback. Pursue it like water. It is necessary for growth. Ask for 360 degree feedback from a manager or HR so you can grow. Embrace the serenity prayer and identify those things that are indeed true about you that you CAN change, identify those things that you do not believe are true about you, and begin asking more questions to sew why that perception exists. Learn to let go of the things you simply cannot change about yourself – and simply be clear about those things. Put a strategy together on how you are going to tackle those things that are holding you back.
Get strengths savvy: Knowing where you are naturally wired and how you can cultivate those natural talents into strengths is a really important activity. Shakespeare once said, “To thine own self be true.” Knowing who you are and how to accelerate the potency of your leadership is critical. The greatest leaders will say that the key to their success was driving their strengths, not focusing on correcting their weaknesses.
Get comfortable with communications: Be careful with your words – written and verbal. Always use an outline to ensure you don’t wander in your messages. Check in with your audience to make sure they received the message you were trying to get across. Ask for feedback on emails, presentations, discussions…Employ an editor to help you make sure your messages are clear and simple. Re-read messages or video-tape speeches or presentations and be self-critical on what you could have omitted, where you use unnecessary words (um, uh, like, ok). Take a course on communication. If you aren’t the best communicator, use others to help get messages across and act as a facilitator (hint: know your strengths and those of others!)