Leadership Presence: 3 Ways to Develop It On the Inside As Well As the Outside

Young Man Tying A NecktieWhat’s the difference between executive presence and leadership presence? That’s a question that often comes up when I work with clients who are focused on improving current perceptions of their leadership readiness. During our sessions we talk about how executive presence is based on what people see when they first meet a leader—the external side; and leadership presence is based more on the leader’s point of view, character, and intentions—the internal side.

As different as executive and leadership presence can seem, I believe there is great overlap between them. Key characteristics of both are authenticity, communication, emotional intelligence, the ability to connect with others, and the ability to be present. These qualities are needed for both executive presence and leadership presence to be used effectively.

Developing Your Leadership Presence

There are certainly a great number of books and columns that will help you on your outward executive presence, but here are three questions that will help you develop the internal side of the equation.

  1. Are you here to serve or to be served? This is one of the most important questions for leaders to ask themselves. Your answer will drive your behavior and how you interact with people. If you are here to serve, your focus is on supporting others rather than using them to elevate yourself. Servant leaders have a better track record of success than ego-driven leaders.
  1. What are your leadership beliefs and values? Your beliefs and values also drive your behavior. What is your belief about leadership and directing others? Leaders are more successful when they value things such as connecting personally and collaborating with people—habits that lead to better relationships and partnerships.
  1. Do you effectively build trust in others? A solid foundation of trust allows for creativity, productivity, efficiency, and effective two-way communication. Here are four questions that can serve as a reminder. Are you able—do you demonstrate competence? Are you believable—do you act with integrity? Are you connected—do you care about others? And are you dependable—do you maintain reliability? (You can learn more about this ABCD trust model in this Blanchard white paper on Building Trust.)

Leadership is an inside-out proposition. Outward appearances are important—but gaining clarity on your values and beliefs, your intentions, and who you want to be as a leader will crystallize your internal executive presence. If you get it right on the inside, you will get it right on the outside. The most effective leaders have executive presence and leadership presence.

About the Author

Terry Watkins is a coaching solutions partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

2 thoughts on “Leadership Presence: 3 Ways to Develop It On the Inside As Well As the Outside

  1. This article suggests that of all the characteristics of effective leadership, the operative word is “presence” and I agree. That said, we need to understand the meaning and the experience of presence. Presence is much more than just being there with 100% of yourself paying attention, not thinking about other things or what you might want to say or do next. Presence means that others know who you are and what makes you who you are by your expressed values and actions. They do not have to wonder where you stand on a particular issue nor do they have many doubts about what you will do in a given situation. It is because you are consistent, reliable and you come through on behalf of others. It is not only servant leadership and sustaining leadership. It is bold, courageous and compassionate leadership and your presence exhibits those behaviors time after time.

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