Leadership presence can mean the difference between inspiring confidence and trust in your team or having them continually questioning your decisions and actions. It can mean the difference between building a strong and cohesive team or having one riddled with conflicts and competing agendas. It can also mean the difference between achieving your professional goals or losing ground.
Leadership presence is displayed through a blend of verbal and nonverbal communication signals. It’s heightened when you show up and contribute at meetings, project confidence and poise under pressure, present ideas decisively and succinctly, engage with others in ways that are empathetic, and optimize the impact of body language so that others see you as the talented leader you truly are.
When you possess and cultivate leadership presence, you signal to your team and colleagues that you are credible, confident, and inclusive. When you lack leadership presence, you risk losing the ability to positively influence others and inspire action. And, by the way, understanding the impact of your body language, word choice, and vocal inflection – so that you can adjust when necessary – becomes even more important in times of major change and upheaval.
The goal of leadership presence is to align other people’s perception of you with your best authentic self. In other words, building presence is all about impression management. As one successful leader told me: “You need to show up each day the way you want to be perceived – which is simple to say, but difficult to accomplish unless you do your homework and really know yourself.”
If you spell-check a report before turning it in to your boss or watch your table manners when dining with an important client, you already practice impression management and realize that it isn’t any less authentic to be seen at your best than it is to display your worst (or sloppiest) behaviors.
A problem only arises if you confuse authenticity with habit. For example: You may slouch because you have always had poor posture, but that doesn’t make it authentic, it simply makes it a habit – and, by the way, not a habit that serves you well.
Your body language has a massive impact on how other people perceive you and how they interact with you. Just as good posture sends nonverbal signals of energy, confidence, and health, poor body posture makes you look bored or unmotivated — which I assume is not the impression you want to make on your boss, customers, and colleagues.
The same is true for verbal habits. When you typically begin comments with “This may be a stupid idea . . .” or “You’ve probably already thought of this . . .” it lessens people’s perception of your credibility. And — since the number one request I get from executives regarding high potential candidates they want me to coach is “Please help them get to the point!” — if you’ve developed the skill of stating your ideas succinctly, you’ll build your reputation as a skilled communicator.
Don’t underestimate the power of leadership presence – cultivate it and watch your success soar.
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