Leadership Presence: 3 Powerful Steps to Boost Your Impact

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What does leadership presence mean for you? What does it mean to your organization? Is it just a checkbox on your perfect attendance list, or the key to unlocking your potential as an ally? Presence goes far deeper than just showing up -that’s only half of the battle. What matters is how you show up – your presence has an impact!

 In “You, Me, We”, we describe an Ally Mindset as “an intentional, conscious choice to be proactive and thoughtful in your relationships, rather than reactive and defensive in your interactions.” Meaning your leadership presence is the landing spot for being a great ally!

“Demonstrating an Ally Mindset is an intentional, conscious choice to be proactive and thoughtful in your relationships, rather than reactive and defensive in your interactions.”

The three of us in “You, Me, We. Why we all need a friend at work (and how to show up as one!)

The Power of Your Leadership Presence

Your leadership presence has the power to make or break your professional reputation, and the results you are able to deliver. It’s not just about being physically present, but about being mentally present too. When we show up with our full selves we build connections and fuel relationships that ensure we are better together. How amazing is that?

Leadership presence isn’t just about the person with the fancy title; it’s about everyone who shows up (and occasionally those who don’t – your leadership presence can be felt even when you aren’t in the room). A title may seem like it holds a lot of power, but it’s only valuable when it is used with purpose. Titles are next to names all the time, big deal! But an action tied to a name? That’s where the real worth is. 

I asked our friend and colleague Cynthia Burnham, author of The Charisma Edge: A How-to Guide for Turning on Your Leadership Power, to share her research, here is what she had to say:

“Leadership presence – call it charisma, if you like – is a learnable skill. True, some people come by it naturally, but some people also can play the piano at three without a lesson.  Being intentional about how you want to show up, what you want people to see when you come in the door that will help all of you accomplish something, those are the starting points.  Those are the “piano” lessons you practice and learn, so the song you play about yourself is powerful and moves people to action.

The best leadership presence is driven by intentionally focusing on two things:  the importance of your ultimate mission, and the what your people need to be successful.  When I focus on myself, and what people might think of me, I sometimes get nervous.  When I focus on “my job” to teach people important things so they can be happier in their lives, I am never nervous.   

Leadership presence is not, or not only about being confident.  It’s about inspiring others to be confident through the example of what you say and do, your body language, your voice, and the inner intentions that drive it all. In English, “present” and “presence” come from the same linguistic root.  People with presence have gotten out of their own way to be present for the people around them.”

Is your Leadership Presence Present?

You are a leader in your own right, whether it’s leading your life, a small team, or an entire organization. As Cynthia shared above, being present is the first step on the journey to building influence.

In your next meeting, or one-on-one, be intentional of your desired outcome. Do you want to show up and simply listen? Or do you want to show up with a voice? Remember that at your core, you are a leader, you are an ally, your presence has an impact, and you get to decide how to use it.

If you’re still unsure where to start, here are three steps to get you started:

  • Look Up: Determine the health of your relationships with the Four Yeses: Can I count on you? Can I depend on you? Do I care about you? Do I trust you? We all ask ourselves these four questions (consciously and subconsciously) in every relationship. If you and your colleague can answer these questions with “yes,” you have a strong foundation for a successful relationship. If your answer is ‘no’ or “don’t know” then it’s time to reassess your leadership presence and move to the next step.
  • Show Up: Connect with Your Authentic Self – Instead of trying to be who you think you should be in your organization, focus on who you are and the unique combination of skills you bring to the table. Take some time for personal reflection (consider journaling). Prompts could include: What was a challenging situation or a win I experienced today? On a scale of 1-10 (1 = exhausted, 10 = energized), how did I feel after? And how could I have used my strengths to change the outcome? What was a success or win I experienced? How did my strengths support that outcome?
    Reconnecting with yourself will enhance your confidence and help you develop a better presence.
  • Step Up: Practice Radical Humanity – Before jumping into the nitty-gritty of a meeting, create a welcoming space by asking questions like “how was everyone’s weekend?” or “what’s something new you learned this week?”. By leading with humanity, you’ll create a supportive environment where people feel connected to each other, and more comfortable speaking up, not just about what’s happening in their whole lives, but in raising the tough work-topics too.

Your leadership presence matters! The good news is that it is possible to develop your leadership presence in a way that showcases the special sauce that makes you unique. In doing so, you have the power to build deeper connections and fuel relationships that ensure the you and your co-workers are #bettertogether.

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