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What is Leadership Presence? (And Why It’s So Important in 2021)

What is Leadership Presence? (And Why It’s So Important in 2021)

Think of the most famous actors and politicians in our day and age — Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Barack Obama – they instantly command your attention when they walk into a room to give a speech or step 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.

What Does Leadership Presence Look Like, Feel Like and Sound Like?

People who show up with Leadership Presence:

  1. Look like: they are comfortable, humble and engaged
  2. Feel like: they are warm, friendly and approachable
  3. Sound like: they speak with conviction, clarity and respectfully

So, what is leadership presence?

At Corporate Class Inc., we define leadership presence as the ability to connect authentically, build confidence in others, and inspire and motivate people into action.

leadership presence

Some say Executive Presence is a subset of Leadership Presence, but 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.

The reason why Leadership Presence is more prevalent now is that it is more inclusive.

Leadership Presence is something that shows up at every level of the organization, not only at the Senior or C-Suite levels.

Building confidence requires a good amount of self-regard, which is all about self-respect and self-worth. The leadership implications of self-regard expand further than many realize.

Your self-confidence gives you the ability to:

  • inspire (the pull)
  • motivate (the push)
  • innovate (create)

It also commands respect and trust from others. It helps fuel success!

Why is Leadership Presence Important?

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

As is evident by this statement, the underlying structure of presence is the ability to connect.

This ability to connect, or what is commonly known as “charisma,” is what brings people and teams together.

A charismatic leader or actor can command your attention in a room full of their peers because they connect with you on a deeper level, which increases their ability to motivate and inspire their followers or fans.

This is why the world is moving away from the more toxic and traditional ideas of leadership such as the “Command and Control” style and towards a more authentic, inclusive and empathetic style of leadership.

Our favourite teachers, bosses, peers, and clients are those who form meaningful relationships with us, champion us, and push us to do better for ourselves.

Hence, every aspiring leader must work on their ability to connect authentically which requires a great deal of vulnerability at times.

As the CTI report states: “Executive Presence alone won’t get you promoted…but its absence will impede your progress.”

The extraordinary thing about leadership presence is its accessibility. In fact, it’s attainable to everyone with the will to succeed.

At CCI, we strongly believe that:

Leadership Presence is neither exclusive nor elusive.™

Developing Leadership Presence

There is a common misconception that the ability to develop leadership presence:

  • comes naturally to a person
  • does not come naturally
  • only comes to those who have been given certain opportunities

Many believe that a person without this ability to connect or have charisma is out of luck.

However, as experts in our business, and the authors Halpen and Lubar, we agree that this is not the case.

The authors state, “presence is a set of skills, both internal and external, that virtually anyone can develop and improve” (Halpern and Lubar 3).

Yes, leadership presence is something you can develop. But…

It requires commitment because it is multi-faceted, it is about developing core competencies for the role you’re in, and, more importantly now more than ever, it is about continually working on developing your emotional intelligence, social skills and interpersonal savvy.

These are skills in low supply at all levels and most difficult to develop according to research stated in the Korn Ferry Leadership Architect research and technical guide. If you’d like more information on how to develop leadership presence, we would be happy to send you a copy of this research.

The Elements of Leadership Presence

At CCI, our research and experience has taught us that there are in fact several elements of leadership presence and we have combined all of these under 4 key pillars:

First Impressions

Sometimes we nail it sometimes we fail it. What are the key components of First Impressions? Your likeability, credibility, power and appearance. As Joan tells Alan Turing in the movie The Imitation Game, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, they will not help you if they don’t like you.”

Communication Skills

We communicate verbally and non-verbally. Both methods are equally important when it comes to speaking with clarity, brevity and impact.

Pay attention to the body language, the small words we use that sometimes carry so much weight. For example:  Asking “Why” may sound accusatory, “You should” may denote a negative aggressive tone.

The way you communicate reflects on your personal brand as well. Your personal brand is your reputation currency and you must manage it — if you don’t others will happily do it for you and it may not be what you want to be known for.

Purpose Driven Leadership Competencies

The inclusive leader is self-aware and provides a safe environment for all to have their voices heard without fear of retribution.  Great leaders understand the important role emotional intelligence plays in all interactions and how to stretch their leadership style when needed in order to get things done.

Commitment

If it’s worth living, it’s worth recording. Mine for goals, define them, refine them and attach a strategy to each of them. For each strategy, develop an action commitment plan to help you reach every one of your goals.

By including the elements of leadership presence in your leadership style, you’ll connect better and faster, know how to project credibility, stay calm under pressure, captivate an audience and much more!

Benefits of Leadership Presence Training

Leadership Presence Training with an expert is beneficial and recommended for all professionals, as it helps individuals see and understand themselves from an external lens, and develop their strengths and improve on their weaknesses.

The process for leadership presence training requires:

Commitment: a commitment to introspect, reflect and work on certain tendencies and overcome insecurities in challenging situations to assert one’s presence.

Readiness to learn: It also includes the learning of new techniques to help become a more persuasive and influential leader.

Apply the training: Finally, for ultimate effectiveness, it’s critical to take this learning and apply it in your daily work, and look for assignments that will require you to use these newly learned skills.

We learn 70% on the job, 20% from people and 10% from training.

Once you apply your training in a real situation, the stakes are higher and the learning is truly experiential and transformative.

Often, this is not an easy journey and hence, requires an experienced coach.

We have learned from our experience, and this exercise is always cathartic for each individual, in addition to helping them move up the ladder in their careers.

Leadership presence training enables each person to assert their individuality and form more meaningful and deep relationships with those around them, which results in stronger teams, higher performance, and a culture of empowering ourselves and those around us.

At Corporate Class Inc., our team has conducted extensive research on executive and leadership presence. We also have a combined experience running into triple-digit years in the leadership training and coaching space. Our goal is to empower people to unlock their potential. Let us help you on your journey to empower yourself and others.

Master your leadership presence skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!

leadership presence training program

Works Cited

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

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