When you talk, you want others to listen, right? Whether it’s a now-or-never event (making a key point in an oral argument, for instance) or one in a long stream of communications (talking with a colleague about some aspect of a representation), getting your point across and making some sort of advance in what you’re doing is probably at the top of your list every time you open your mouth.
How you present yourself, how you communicate, how you listen, how you connect, and how you respond to feedback you receive creates leadership presence. Think about stage presence, that indefinable something that makes magic as soon as an actor steps onto a stage. Leadership presence is the business version of stage presence.
Leadership presence can be cultivated. Belle Linda Halpern and Kathe Lubar of The Ariel Group wrote a book titled Leadership Presence, in which they outline the PRES model. To develop your own presence, consider these aspects:
P – Being Present. Being “present” means being fully focused on what’s going on in the time and space you’re occupying, so that you’re able to respond to whatever happens, however unexpected it may be.
R – Reaching Out. Leaders must listen to others and build authentic relationships. Emotional intelligence plays a significant role in reaching out to others in a genuine and effective way.
E – Expressiveness. Use your words, your body language, and the tone and rate of your speech to express your message, and ensure that each of these routes for communication is congruent with the others. We’ve probably all seen someone who shakes his head in a “no” gesture while saying, “What a great idea,” or a manager who stands in front of a group to announce an “exciting new initiative with lots of opportunities for us to do well,” while her body is slumped and her voice is halting and quiet. Harness the power of communication and express your message clearly.
S – Self-knowing. Effective leaders tend to be self-aware, authentic regardless of situation or circumstance, and guided by core values and priorities. Bill George uses the analogy of True North in his book of the same title. A leader who knows her True North and acts accordingly will exhibit a stronger presence than one who shifts based on context.
Practice using “PRES” when you speak over the next few days or weeks. Notice how you feel and how others respond to you. Notice where you feel comfortable and where perhaps you need additional practice. And notice, most importantly, the effect your presence has on your leadership.