When admired, respected leaders walk into a room where others are gathered, their presence sends a message about who they are and what they represent. Those around them form judgments in a matter of seconds and the impressions are lasting. The intangible traits they emanate begin to create or reinforce their leadership presence, a critical factor separating high-performing leaders from those less successful. A strong leadership presence expands the leadership potential of every leader and here’s how you can develop yours.
Identify three words that reflect what you most want others to see in you. These words might come from significant events that have unfolded in your life and shaped who you are. The values most important to you – respect, achievement, relationships, for example – might further define your ethos. Your beliefs about leadership could contribute as well. Do you believe leaders should serve their staff, i.e. servant leadership? Motivate and inspire high performance? Engage and collaborate? Create vision? How you define your style, i.e. analytical, doer, feeler, intuitor might also contribute to discovering your core traits.
Consider your organization’s culture.
Refine your leadership presence by considering what is expected of you by the organization within which you currently lead. That means putting emphasis on those traits you have identified which align best with the expectations of the organization and minimizing those that may not. Of course, it is easier for leaders to feel authentic in an organization that is a good match them. Consider the competencies upon which you are evaluated and find the intersection between those and the traits you have identified.
Focus on managing the perceptions of others. Once you have clearly identified your three words, keep them in mind throughout the day as you go about your leadership activities. Prepare for interactions with others by imagining what you will do and say that will reflect the leadership presence you want to convey. Envision how you want others to respond. Become more intentional about creating your leadership presence. Don’t just let it happen. Be accountable for the perceptions you create.
Ask for feedback. Be persistent in checking-in with others to determine how you are being perceived. Classic 360-degree assessments are a good way to gauge how others see you. Compare your results against the three words you identified as the core of the leadership presence you want to convey, then adjust your behavior accordingly.
Establishing a strong leadership presence is central to maximizing one’s leadership potential. Take time to reflect on what matters to you and how you can best represent those traits to others.