Recovering From a Bad First Impression

As was discussed last week in the blog about creating a favorable first impression, the power and value of a good first impression is paramount in any given situation. Creating a good first impression can lead to new opportunities, new connections and help to propel you forward, at whatever stage you’re at in your career.


In addition, as mentioned last week, typically first impressions are made with confidence, and tend to be solidified over time. However, that is not to say that you cannot recover from making a bad first impression.

According to an article in Forbes Magazine written by Dorie Clark, there are a few ways one can overcome a bad first impression. Clark interviewed Grant Halvorson, author of the book “No One Understands You and What to Do About It”, who gives readers some insight on steps they can take to overcome a bad first impression.

  1. Overload them with contrary evidence

Say, for instance, you make a bad first impression, and the root of that bad first impression is that you came across as perhaps slightly more opinionated than you truly are (often in stressful situations, such as a first interview, we sometimes act outside of our normal behaviors). Next time you meet with the person in question, be cognizant of your faults from your first meeting and try to counteract them with opposite behaviors. In this situation, take a step back and refrain from offering your opinion at any given moment; simply offer it if it’s asked of you. Also, you could go out of your way to ask the other person about their opinion on matters in question.

  1. Arrange a joint work project

Granted, this may not be possible in all situations, however arranging a project with the person with whom you made an initial bad first impression may help to patch things up. The project should be something that requires the skills of both people and an atmosphere of teamwork. When you work with another person on a project, you want to have faith in that person and believe in their capabilities, if at least for the success of the project. This will give you the chance to help repair that negative first impression you gave when the project is a success.

There are many other ways to recover from a bad first impression. Showing up to work early for a few weeks, treating colleagues to coffee after lunch, or simply being kind and friendly are all ways you can begin to repair the negative first impression you gave. These may sound cheesy or that you’re “sucking up”, however how others perceive you is extremely important, and you should take any necessary steps towards fixing that lackluster first impression.

Works Cited:

Clark, Dorie. “How to Recover From a Bad First Impression.” Forbes Magazine. Forbes. 20 Apr. 2015. Web. 3 Oct. 2015.

How to Make A (Positive) First Impression

It is no secret that first impressions are important; they have been so since the dawn of our species. As homo sapiens were evolving, a particular defence mechanism was in place which allowed for the incredibly quick judgment of another of the same kind. The ability to judge another was of incredible value; it would initiate the fight or flight response. Is the other trustworthy? Friend, or foe?

The same mechanism is still in place today. In fact, research suggests that we are not only are able to, but automatically judge another person’s personality traits based on a mere 100 millisecond exposure to a photograph of a face (Willis and Todorov 2006). Not only do we make these snap judgments subconsciously, but the first and most confident judgment we make is about the other’s trustworthiness. In addition, the same research found that not only do people generally stick with their first impression of someone, but that this impression is solidified over time (this is not to say, however, that you cannot recover from a bad first impression – you can. We will discuss this next week).

This phenomenon is directly applicable, and extremely prevalent, in the business world. Given the importance of first impressions, one of the aspects of business where this is most important is in an interview setting. A bad first impression when you walk into an interview could potentially have devastating effects. So, how can you give the best first impression?

Tips on Giving a Good First Impression Before an Interview

  1. Grooming: given that first impressions, evolutionarily speaking, are based on viewing another’s facial features, grooming (including hair, makeup and general skincare) are extremely important. Neat, coifed hair, healthy skin, and a simple, but well put-together makeup application will do wonders. It will signal to the interviewer that you are healthy and care about yourself.
  2. Dress: just like the importance of first impressions, it is no secret that dress is extremely important in business, and you could say, especially in an interview setting. It accompanies grooming in the overall first impression you give to the interviewer. Make sure to dress appropriately for the job in question (for example, don’t necessarily wear a skirt suit if applying for a job at a gym), and be sure that your clothing fits you properly, and is appropriate. An ill-fitting garment or suit will possibly lead others to think you are lazy, or simply don’t care.
  3. Presence: your overall presence – how you walk in the room, your posture, your gait, your smile – is like the cherry on top of the first impressions sundae. Presence is not really something tangible; it is a combination of many elements that create your overall aura. Your presence will signal your confidence and authority in the interview setting, two very valuable commodities in an often highly stressful situation.

Don’t let the idea of the significance of first impressions scare you; rather, it should inspire you. Now you know that you can effectively “create” a favorable first impression before you even get to your interview. Just remember how far a smile, a great jacket, and a whole bunch of confidence can take you!

Works Cited

Willis, Janine and Alexander Todorov. “First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face.” Psychological Science 17.7 (2006): 592-598.


Self-Knowing and Authenticity

Alas! We have finally reached the last blog post on Leadership Presence – self-knowing and authenticity. Over the past few weeks, we’ve discovered what leadership presence means, what it can do for you, and how to attain it. Last week we began to dissect the final piece of the puzzle in the quest to obtaining leadership presence: self-knowing. This week, we continue with this theme but discuss it in terms of authenticity.


What is authenticity? Well, at its most basic level, it means to be genuine. To be genuine is to be oneself. The ability to connect with others in the business world is of the utmost importance, however the connecting must be done genuinely, or authentically, for it to have any meaning or impact.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, there are three rules for authenticity. We shall discuss each in detail below.

Rule #1: Accept yourself and be open to growth (Halpern and Lubar 230)

Many of the greatest leaders feel comfortable and happy with themselves, despite their shortcomings. They know of their weaknesses and work to improve them, however they also accept them. When you’re aware of, and accepting of, your limitations it will allow you to develop the skills you need to overcome them. In addition, a good leader will know if their limitations cannot be overcome, at least in a timely manner, and in that case will delegate the task to someone more appropriately equipped to handle the situation. One of the best ways to accept yourself is to be open to hearing commentary about yourself and your performance, including criticism.

Rule #2: Live your values (Halpern and Lubar 235)

 In the last blog, we discussed values and how important they are to a leader. Well, it’s one thing to have values, however it’s another to put them into practice, especially in a workplace setting. Halpern and Lubar suggest leaders take two related steps in order to make sure their actions are congruent with their values:

  1. Ask others straight up if they believe you are someone who lives your values.
  2. Every time you speak of your values, ask others to tell you when your actions don’t align with your values.

It’s one thing to realize or discover that your actions don’t align with your values. If and when you do realize this, it is imperative you do some soul searching in order to figure out why this discrepancy exists, and then come up with a plan to correct the discrepancy. Remember, when your actions and values don’t align, you risk being perceived as inauthentic.

Rule #3: Create an authentic connection to work (Halpern and Lubar 240)

In order for a leader to be their most inspiring, authentic self, they must connect their values and interior life to the work that they do, similarly to how actors need to create a true connection to the characters they are portraying. At the end of the day, it is simply about creating meaning; if you truly believe in what you do and say, others will recognize that and will want to follow you. Connecting authentically with others allows the leader, as well as the led, to connect with something “bigger than themselves and their own self-interest” (Halpern and Lubar 247).

Being a leader is not about being “the boss”; it is about much more than that. It’s about inspiring, connecting, and motivating others to succeed and reach their highest potential. It is about communication, values, and the ability to make decisions. The steps we’ve outlined over the past few weeks are not necessarily the easiest things to do (opening up to others and becoming vulnerable is typically an anxiety-causing activity for most), however, if put into practice, they will help you achieve the leadership presence you deserve and need to reach the next level.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.


Self-Knowing, Self-Reflection and Explicit Values

For the last few weeks, we’ve explored how expressiveness can help you achieve more leadership presence; for the next two weeks, we will look at the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to building your leadership presence: self-knowing. 


Leaders need explicit values (Halpern and Lubar 203)

What are values, exactly? In essence, they are your sense of what’s important to you, a set of beliefs that guide you through your day-to-day. Our values often linger under the surface of our conscious, guiding us through small decisions, and coming to the frontlines when a big decision needs to be made. According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire, leaders need explicit values which in turn should be expressed, for the following reasons (203-204):

  • Followers will always want to know how their leaders think and what they want. If this is hidden to them, they will be less likely to follow.
  • Remember, leaders don’t simply delegate work; they motivate and inspire – expressing your explicit values will help you to do so.
  • As leaders take charge of larger groups, they cannot simply rely on their actions to express what they want or believe.

According to Halpern and Lubar, having clear, explicit values can help you make better decisions in difficult situations, and at a faster pace (time is money, right?). In addition, basing decisions on what you truly believe in will help you do so with more confidence, something your followers are constantly looking for in you. But what are your values? Halpern and Linda state that an easy way to concretely discover your core values is to look for them in your own life stories (205).

Guidelines for making explicit values (Halpern and Lubar 209)

In their many years of helping leaders, Halpern and Lubar have developed three guidelines to help other leaders discover their explicit values. The guidelines are the following:

Explicit values guideline #1: Pursue some regular process of self-reflection

Often, people will only self-reflect when they are forced to make a choice or when faced with a dilemma. True leaders, however, will consciously employ some type of self-reflection process of reviewing their daily experiences and learning from them; they do not wait for crisis to self-reflect. Ways of doing this are thinking symbolically and getting away regularly which can offer a change in perspective.

Explicit Values Guideline #2: Write down your personal leadership values

Why should you write down your own values if you know them already? Good question. Writing down your leadership values will make speaking them far easier. There is an assumption that your actions speak for themselves, but at the end of the day, that is still an assumption. Writing down your values will help you stay consistent over time, and help you chose language that engages others. Writing down your values includes two simply steps: firstly, chose 3-5 values most important to you as a leader. Secondly, for each value, recall a life story that illustrates that value.

Explicit Values Guideline #3: Speak your leadership values

Halpern and Lubar often encourage the leaders they work with to put themselves in situations in which they can freely speak their values, in an appropriate and explicit way. However, it is understand that speaking about our values is not always easy or comfortable. The authors suggest using stories, as they are powerful, and engage the heart and the mind

A leader is only as strong as his group of followers. If followers do not listen or trust in their leader, they cannot be considered a leader. In order for trust to exist, a leader must show themselves, who they truly are and what they believe in.

This week, examine your set of values, write them down and practice telling them to others. Become comfortable sharing stories that relate to your values – this will help you expand and strengthen your leadership presence, propelling you to the next level.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.


Expressiveness Using Voice, Body and Story

As our series on Leadership Presence continues this week, we look even closer at the power of expression and how it can enhance your ability to lead. Last week, we looked at the role of emotions and how they drive expressiveness; this week, we will look in detail into how voice, body and story can help you become more expressive.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, there are three rules for expressiveness. Below, we will look at each in detail.

Rule #1: Conquer your fear of overexpression (Halpern and Lubar 163)

 The fear, in most business situations, is being too expressive, as we think it might resemble flamboyancy (an often non-desired trait in the business world, especially if one wants to be considered a leader). The authors suggest thinking of your “expressive ability” in terms of a dial, 1 being very low and 10 being very high. They state that on average, people in a business setting have their dials “set” to between 1 and 3; they suggest a better area is between 3 and 7.

Needless to say, your dial should change according to your circumstance. A on-on-one meeting probably does not necessitate a dial setting of 7. In addition, Halpern and Lubar state that as you move along the leadership spectrum from “responsible” to “assertive”, you will need to become more or less expressive – for example, the more assertive you’re trying to be, the more expressive you should become (164).

Being an introvert is not an excuse for not being expressive. As a matter of fact, some extroverts can be over the top expressive and annoy others. When it comes to our first pillar of Executive Presence: First Impressions, we emphasize the importance of the impact we make when meeting people for the first time. The introvert who does not participate in a two-way conversation may risk becoming suspicious to others. We agree with the authors that you need to move up the scale without tipping it as some extroverts may do.

Rule #2: Using your voice and body congruently (Halpern and Lubar 165) 

Halpern and Lubar explain that a problem they often encounter when dealing with business people is that many do not speak with congruency; that is to say, their words and their body language do not match. Imagine how problematic it would be in a business situation to be saying one thing, but for your body to be saying something completely different? The price, according to Halpern and Lubar, is tremendous: loss of credibility.

Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s research suggests strong evidence on the importance of congruence, as we write about in this previous blog post.

But how can you become more congruent? Here are some tips:

  • Relax
  • Variety in your language, body and voice (so as not to lose your audience)
  • Marry language to passion (your choice of words does matter – it will ensure you are passionate and excited about what you’re speaking of, and will in turn excite your audience. Ways of doing this includes the use of quotes, using vivid imagery and metaphor, and taking notes from great orators)
  • Vocal variety – no monotone allowed!!
  • Be conscious of your body language
  • Take up space (recall Amy Cuddy’s research) 

Rule #3: Tell Stories to unleash your expressiveness (Halpern and Lubar 175)

Storytelling is a great way for you to naturally speak with congruence. According to the authors: “Stories help you automatically pull together every means of expression and compensate for any lack of formal training in voice and body movement” (175).

Stories can help with expressing emotion in two ways: firstly, they give you permission to take on roles, therefore allowing for heightened expression. Secondly, stories generate emotional responses from audience members (176).

Halpern and Lubar offer some tips to help you in your storytelling ventures (178):

  • Use the present tense to enhance the immediacy of the story
  • Use bullet phrases (as opposed to long, run-on sentences)
  • Use descriptive and sensory language to keep your audience involved
  • Use variety in your face, body and tone of voice

Many of us exhibit some level of anxiety when it comes to speaking in front of others or when giving a presentation. These tips can help you become more confident, more congruent, and more engaged. In turn, your audience will respect, listen to, and be genuinely interested in, what you have to say.

This week, challenge yourself to put these ideas into practice; practice at home in front of the mirror, and if you’re daring, try filming yourself so that you may re-watch yourself and see what needs tweaking.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

Emotions Drive Expressiveness

Over the last two weeks, we looked at reaching out as it relates to leadership presence, and how you can use empathy and the power of making connections to build your leadership presence. This week, as well as next week, we will be looking at expressiveness and where it fits in the quest for leadership presence.


This week, we will examine how you can use emotions to drive expressiveness. According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, expressiveness is “the ability to express feelings and emotion appropriately by using all means of expressing – words, voice, body, face – to deliver one congruent message” (129).

Communication is not simply about what you say – in fact, what you say is only a small part of how you communicate with others. For example, Albert Mehrabian, a social scientist, conducted a study in which business people were rated by listeners in three different areas: their choice of words, the tone of their voice and their body language. Results show that the most important factor in determining the impact of an overall message was body language (Halpern and Lubar 133). I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Mehrabien a few years ago and discuss his book “The Silent Message”. We express ourselves both verbally and non-verbally. If our words aren’t congruent with our body language, people will believe what they see not what they hear.

Should Leaders Express Feelings and Emotions?

The notion that leaders are calm, dispassionate and always in control is a fallacy, however it is a widely held one. One might think that emotions can serve to undermine authority, or perhaps even connote a lack of control, but it is in fact the opposite. It is impossible to have presence of any kind (including leadership presence) without showing vulnerability.

According to Halpern and Lubar, “Possessing [the ability to recognize and express emotion] will make a leader more effective and set the emotional tone and energy level of the whole organization” (139). As mentioned in the post about empathy, being able to recognize and feel others’ emotions is crucial, but so is the expression of your own. Remaining calm under chaos is critical to leadership presence and when losing control is out of character, others will pause and pay attention.

Expressing Emotion Guideline #1: Generating Excitement by Expressing Emotion (Halpern and Lubar 142)

Expressed enthusiasm typically generates an enthusiastic response. Perhaps expressing emotion does not come naturally to you, and it may make you feel uncomfortable, however the results will surely be worth the uneasiness.

But what about women? Do the same rules apply? Expressing emotion as a woman in a business setting can play into the stereotype that women can’t handle their emotions. However, for both men and women, if you own your emotions and feel comfortable with them, others will too.

Something to keep in mind: the authors are not condoning free expression of all emotions all the time, regardless of the situation, but rather they state that “Because the expression of emotion is such a powerful tool for leaders, it must be used carefully. That’s why we don’t advocate the expression of any and all feelings, regardless of consequences” (Halpern and Lubar 146).

Expressing Emotion Guideline #2: Express Authentic Emotion (Halpern and Lubar 147)

Needless to say, the emotions expressed by a leader must be authentic, otherwise others will notice their inauthenticity, and the leader will be perceived as a phony. In order to elicit authentic expression of emotion from others, it must first come from you, the leader. I recall listening to Gordon Nixon, the CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada in 2012. He said the reason why they were the no.1 bank in Canada was that they understood people weren’t fools. I always said, “fake it till you make it and know you’ll soon be found out.” People are not fools.

Expressing Emotion Guideline #3: Invest Passionate Purpose Into Your Words and Actions (Halpern and Lubar 150)

Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this meeting?” or perhaps even “What is the purpose of this email?” beyond the obvious purpose. Instead of just needing to share information with someone, perhaps the deeper purpose is to spread knowledge so that the other individual may benefit in his or her current position, and in turn can help to grow the company. This will enhance your output of emotion into the message, and in turn will affect how others read your message.

Halpern and Lubar state that no communication needs to be dull – rather, every conversation or exchange of words represents the opportunity to change minds (153). With this in mind, challenge yourself this week to step out of your comfort zone (if your comfort zone does not already include expressing your emotions with ease), and find ways to express your emotions in meaningful ways, all with the end goal of increasing your leadership presence!

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”                                                                                                                              – Maya Angelou

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.


Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Making Connections

As our series of blogs on Leadership Presence continues, our hope is that you take some of these suggestions into practice, in order to foster leadership presence in yourself, not just at work, but in every aspect of your life.


Last week we discussed reaching out and empathy, and this week we continue on the topic of reaching out, but specifically reaching out and making connections.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, empathy not only requires seeing and feeling, but also expression. What do they mean by this? It is what you do to communicate and act upon empathy that truly counts.

The focus of this entry is building relationships. The trick to building relationships, which is absolutely necessary if you want to be considered a leader, is to do so with empathy. But how?


Rules For Building Empathetic Relationships (Halpern and Lubar 109)

  1. Listen to build relationships
    1. This week again we see the importance of listening. The authors suggest listening for subtext (look for hidden meaning and emotion in the persons words). In addition, they suggest listening for the persons values and strengths, which can be an easy way to connect with someone.
  2. Acknowledge the person
    1. It is important, when listening, to acknowledge feelings, values and strengths that the other person might be trying to get across, but in a not-so-obvious fashion. The idea here is to turn off the “problem-solving” part of the brain when someone comes to you for help, and really listen to what they are saying beneath the words themselves. Another way to do this is to offer positive insights based on what you heard the person say. Remember, “people want to be loves, heard, and made to feel important.”
  3. Share yourself
    1. “Openness is critical for coaching” (119), say Halpern and Lubar in their book. This statement could not be truer, especially in business. It is integral to be vulnerable if you are to be a successful coach. Reveal the chinks in your armor, so to speak, and let others see who you really are; they will be more likely to follow you if you do.

It is important to mention that, although opening up and sharing yourself is necessary if you want to be a successful leader, there is also a limit. The authors suggest doing this in stages (offering bits of information here and there), and seeing how others respond. Don’t tell others your life story the moment you meet them!

The challenge this week is to try to open up and become vulnerable (yes, this will likely be difficult, and possibly even uncomfortable!), and see how others respond to you. Remember, it is all about making connections, and you wont be able to do so if you’re a vault!

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.


Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Empathy

This week we continue our series on leadership presence – what it is and how we can attain it. Last week we looked at the first aspect of leadership presence, and arguably it’s foundation, being present.

For this next instalment, we will discuss the next step on the path to attaining leadership presence: reaching out with empathy. According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, reaching out means “the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection” (77).

This may sounds easy or obvious, but in fact is it not. A true leader is someone who reaches out first, and does not wait for opportunities to cross them by. In addition, it is one thing to reach out to others, to seek out opportunities, but if one does so without empathy and compassion, the effect will be lackluster. Both of these characteristics compliment each other and work together to foster leadership.

How Can I Learn to Reach Out and be Empathetic?

There is a saying: “people want to be loved, heard, and made to feel important.” This statement is true in every aspect of life, and especially in business. A true leader will make their colleagues feel heard, and their actions and ideas integral to any business situation. This includes, for example, active listening, as opposed to passive listening, and sensitivity in dealing with potentially awkward situations (such as someone’s terrible idea for a proposal to a potential client). Halpern and Lubar state: “When you know and acknowledge your people and their feelings, they feel more motivated, work more productively, and they’re more likely to stay, even if the going gets though” (89). If you can learn to reach out and be empathetic with your employees, they will be loyal to you and will work harder for you.

If empathy and the ability to reach out doesn’t exactly come natural to you, there are certain actions you can take to encourage this behavior in yourself.

Know What Makes People Tick

Being empathetic does not mean having warm and fuzzy feelings of happiness for the entire population; it simply means understanding someone’s thoughts and feelings. To do this adequately, it is important to get to know the person, and find out what makes them tick, so that you may better understand them in any situation.

Make The Link to Your Own Feelings

 In opposition to sympathy, empathy involves feeling with someone, as opposed to for someone. Therefore, empathy requires you to connect with your own feelings and inner self. Many leaders have the “bad habit” of leaving all their feelings at home before coming to the office. If you do this, your ability to empathize will be gravely affected. We often see this be the case for some in our 360 with clients. Categories of respondents differ in their opinions of the subject. Friends and family will rate their empathy high while colleagues, direct reports and bosses rate it low.

You Can Empathize With Anyone

Naturally, it is easier to empathize with people we like. Empathizing and connecting with others that you may not like or respect can be a challenge, but it is certainly not impossible. Halpern and Lubar suggest thinking about the person with whom you cannot connect with, and trying to find at least one thing (however, the more the better) that you admire about that person, and connecting with them surrounding that. The authors state: “In the end, though, empathy doesn’t involve finding what you like in someone else. It involves finding the humanity in someone else, even in their weakness, and connecting that humanity to your own” (98).

A study of over 38,000 leaders and their organizations (conducted by Hay/McBer), found that “leadership styles that rely heavily on empathy tended to create a more positive company climate {…}” (99), and as we can imagine, a more positive company climate will lead to positive company results.

This week, challenge yourself to connect with others, and especially to those whom you may know you’ll have trouble connecting with. See what a difference empathy can make on your path to developing your leadership presence.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

Leadership Presence: Being Present

As we discussed last week, leadership presence and executive presence are two terms that are nearly interchangeable; they both share many of the same characteristics and qualities, and they both can be learned.

Check out the link to the article "Mindful Meetings" at the bottom of the post!

Check out the link to the article “Mindful Meetings” at the bottom of the post!

This week is the second installation of this blog series, on being present. Being present doesn’t simply mean paying attention, but truly focusing on the task at hand. Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, in their book “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, explain that, similar to actors, a big part of being able to stay focused is to be able to handle pressure. We refer to this as being able to remain calm under pressure.

Being aware to handle pressure

One of the best ways to handle pressure – whether on stage during a performance, or during a performance in the boardroom – is to be completely aware of your surroundings. Who’s in the room with you? Where are you sitting in relation to others? What is the lighting situation in the room? Are there any windows? Knowing as much as possible about your surroundings will help you master them, and in turn, will help you master your performance and keep cool under pressure. This is what we refer to listening at Level 3, listening to the environment. Level 1 is all about me and Level 2 is about the two-way conversation, an exchange of give and take. Never all one sided as in Level 1.

Being present in today’s fast-paced world

We live in a society where time seems to be passing us by at lighting speeds, and where the present moment seems to pass us by almost immediately. From texts to emails to phone calls, we are expected to read right away, respond right away and act right away, while usually doing other things at the same time; it seems we are in a constant state of multi-tasking. People appear to speed walk everywhere they go, or are running to catch a cab or a train to their next destination. So how can we stay present in such a fast-paced environment?

Halpern and Lubar discuss that all this frantic activity “only exacerbates the underlying problem – how we react to our own feelings of fear” (Halpern and Lubar 26). Fear is a crippling emotion that must be overcome if you are to stay present in the moment.

Three guidelines for “getting present” (Halpern and Lubar 28)

  1. Focus on the physical
    1. Be in the body: as an exercise, start from your feet and feel them firmly planted on the ground. Work your way up and feel every part of your body, taking note of different sensations and feelings. Truly inhabit your body. This not only relates back to the idea of being aware, but will also help you deal with feeling of fear (because it will help you feel stable and grounded).
    2. Breathe: breathing is an extremely powerful tool that we do not use to our advantage. Practice deep breathing and diaphragmatic breathing (click here for a quick tutorial). Be sure to inhale with your belly – this will help the brain reduce the release of adrenaline during a stressful situation, helping you to stay present.
  1. Change your perspective
    1. As opposed to the physical techniques mentioned above, mentally changing your perspective can help you stay present at well. To put it simply: open your mind; see the bigger picture. Don’t get bogged down in details that shouldn’t matter. Try to see things from a bigger, more significant perspective.
  2. Let thoughts go, let feelings be
    1. In order to let go – let go of feelings of fear, doubt, and uncertainty – one must be able to accept what is causing these feelings and embrace them, as opposed to letting them cripple you. “By separating thoughts from fear and letting go, we can free ourselves” (Halpern and Lubar 36).

Being present is the first step needed on the path to obtaining leadership presence. It is the foundation, and without it, the other steps would not be possible. This week, challenge yourself to be present in every moment, and see what a huge difference it can make.

P.S. Check out this great article on “Mindful Meetings” and the benefits to be reaped when when is “present” during a meeting!

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

What is Leadership Presence?

This week begins a series of blogs on leadership presence, what it entails, and how to obtain it.


At Corporate Class, our team has done much research on the terms executive and leadership presence. Some say Executive Presence is a subset of Leadership Presence and we believe these terms are interchangeable. When you look at the description of each according to different authors, they are most often referring to the same thing.

One responder to a blogger’s attempt to define the difference between leadership and executive presence writes: “It is hard for me to imagine that any leader with good leadership presence (as described above) would not have good executive presence (perceived as worthy of being at an executive level by those around them). And anyone with poor leadership presence would also have poor executive presence (you may dress well and speak well but in short order people at an executive level will know whether or not you are all hat and no cattle- lipstick on a pig concept).”

Belle Linda Halpen and Kathy Lubar wrote a comprehensive book entitled “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire.” The book details what leadership presence is, who has it, and how people can obtain it. The first chapter of the book, “What Actors Have That Leaders Need, ” explains the idea of “presence” and what that entails.

So what exactly is “presence”? 

Many of the most famous actors and politicians – Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Winston Churchill – instantly command your attention when they walk into a room to give a speech, or walk onto the red carpet. Why is that? It is not simply because they are famous, but rather, they possess presence.

One key factor of presence – and in turn of these famous figures – is that they command the attention of others, almost effortlessly. People stop and stare, wanting to know what’s going to happen next. However, according to Halpen and Lubar, commanding attention “is only one outcome of presence, not its essence or even its most valuable outcome” (Halpern and Lubar 3).

“Presence is the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others” (Halpern and Lubar 3)

As made obvious by this statement, the underlying structure of presence is the ability to connect. One might believe that this ability either comes naturally to a person or does not, and that the person without it is, well, out of luck. fortunately, according to the authors, that is not the case. In fact, “presence is a set of skills, both internal and external that virtually anyone can develop and improve” (Halpern and Lubar 3). This is fantastic news! However the authors poignantly state that in order for someone to learn leadership presence, they must take themselves out of their comfort zone, and for this reason, learning it is no easy task.

The elements of leadership presence

The authors discuss the elements of leadership presence by using what is called the PRES model of Leadership Presence, which they’ve conceived of based on their years of theatrical and performance experience, as well as what they’ve both learned from teaching presence to leaders.

PRES Model of Leadership Presence:

P: stands for “being present” – the ability to completely be in the moment.

R: stands for “reaching out” – the ability to build relationships with others
through empathy and listening.

E: stands for “expressiveness” – the ability to express feelings and emotions

S: stands for self-knowing – the ability to accept yourself and to be authentic.

The PRES Model of LP is in total alignment with topics covered under the four pillars of Executive Presence of Corporate Class Inc. System. So it is worth noting that leadership presence is definitely very much entrenched in executive presence.

Next week, we will look at “Being Present”, a core value of executive/ leadership presence, depending which term resonates best with you.


Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.