How to Strengthen Your Leadership Presence
A few weeks ago, I led a table talk discussion on leadership presence at Booz Allen Hamilton, my former employer and a current client. This talk centered around what it takes to have a strong presence in order to “own the room.” Leadership presence is defined as “the ability to consistently and clearly articulate your value proposition while influencing and connecting with others,” according to Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins in the book “Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence.” True leaders have a unique presence that is confident, authentic, and compelling – a “signature voice.” They leave a powerful impression on those around them.
Leaders with effective presence strike the right balance between demonstrating their value and uniqueness with connecting and aligning to others. In the coaching work I do with leaders, I help them find this balance and their signature voice either by strengthening their voice for self – having a stronger voice at the table, or dialing it down a notch or two – expanding their perspective to see things from others’ points of view. If your voice for self is over-powering, then you will tend to come across as aggressive and self-centered, having a “driving voice.” If your voice for self is not strong enough and you often defer to others, then you have more of a “supportive voice,” and you may not be viewed as an influential leader. If your voice for self and others are both weak, then you have a “passive voice” and people may disregard you all together.
The book “Own the Room” talks about compelling presence requiring simultaneous focus and alignment on three levels: mental (beliefs and assumptions), skill (communication ability) and physical (energy and body language). They call this the “ACE” model:
- A – The assumptions you make and the mind-set you bring to your interactions with others. The assumptions we hold form our reality: our beliefs about ourselves, about others, and about the situations that surround us.
- C – Communication strategies are the techniques and tools you use to engage, influence and inspire others by saying what you mean with confidence and impact.
- E – Energy is the physical conditioning that helps you manage the impact of your non-verbal cues and emotions on others.
Effective leadership presence is more than just appearing self-confident. It’s being authentic and ensuring that your thoughts, words, deeds and ways of being are all in alignment and sending a consistent message about the uniqueness you have to offer, while showing that you truly care about others. Being congruent and real are the most important components of presence.
“My presence speaks volumes before I say a word.“ – Mos Def
“We convince by our presence.” – Walt Whitman