4 Keys to Realizing Your Authentic Leadership Presence

In my role as an organizational coach, leadership presence is a frequent topic of discussion with executive clients and leaders who are striving to reach a desired position within their companies. I find it interesting that many of my clients who are seeking to improve their leadership presence have difficulty defining it.

In their book Leadership Presence, Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar define this competency as “the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others in order to motivate and inspire them toward a desired outcome.”

Here are some benefits to developing leadership presence:

  • Building trusting and lasting relationships with work colleagues and clients
  • Inspiring work colleagues to produce their best work product
  • Acting as a coach for a reluctant new employee who lacks confidence
  • Presenting a new product to a client
  • Acting as a change agent in your organization
  • Nurturing a healthy, positive, and fun work culture

For some leaders, seeking leadership presence can be both a career-long struggle and a career staller. Hard-driving individuals often spend a significant amount of time focusing on the bottom line and completing tasks rather than developing themselves or building relationships with colleagues and direct reports. I have coached many of these leaders who, later in their career, regret some of their earlier choices. They may have been bypassed for a promotion due to a lack of emotional intelligence or inability to relate well with others—and they often receive this feedback in a 360° assessment. Many organizations choose to provide executive coaching for these individuals due to their considerable talents and successful careers.

Most leaders come to executive coaching hungry to learn about themselves, improve their ability to build and sustain meaningful relationships, and enjoy their colleagues and direct reports. They will confess that something has been missing in their work lives. I would suggest that what’s lacking is self-knowledge and defining how they want to show up as a leader.

A great place to start when seeking to improve leadership presence is to think of a leader you admire—one who is inspiring, is able to command a room, possesses self-confidence, shows empathy and caring for others, and who consistently builds relationships and makes heart connections. I have my clients write about a person they admire so that they may capture the person’s desired qualities and traits. I often ask “Which of these qualities would you like to enhance within yourself?”

  • P stands for Being Present—the ability to be completely in the moment, and flexible enough to handle the unexpected.
  • R stands for Reaching Out—the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection.
  • E stands for Expressiveness—the ability to express feelings and emotions, appropriately by using all available means—words, voice, body, face—to deliver one congruent message.
  • S stands for Self-Knowing—the ability to accept yourself, to be authentic, and to reflect your values in your decisions and actions.

When we are with someone who possesses leadership presence, we feel it, know it, admire it, and want it for ourselves. Leadership presence is more than the sum of the four PRES elements. It includes interior knowledge and exterior behaviors. It demands that we do the work of examining our values, identifying our personal brand, and correcting outward behaviors that may be pushing others away.

Think about a leader you admire. Observe this individual and jot down specific behaviors that you would like to develop within yourself. Perhaps it is their communication style or how others react when they enter a room. Which of their qualities could you emulate?

Best wishes in building your leadership presence in the new year!

About the Author

Patricia Sauer is a coaching solutions partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world.

Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

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