The Key to Leadership: Having Presence

6 Mar

What exactly are the traits that make a good leader? Sure we all know the usual definitions: intelligent, honest, courageous, forward-looking, inspiring. The list goes on. But what is it that sets leaders apart from the “good” leaders, the head management, the executives? Recent studies point to three words as indicative of what characterizes the best of the best. These three words, strong executive presence, may seem relatively simple when thinking about leadership, yet can be quite difficult to master when moving up the professional ladder.

Defining Presence

According to the results of a study released by the Center for Work-Life Policy, a well-known New York Think Tank, executives with presence are confident, assertive, and strategic in making decisions and implementing action plans. In addition, leaders with presence often display the unique ability to command and direct their co-leaders. Executive presence continues to play a greater role within the professional world, as many companies struggle to recover from economic blows and the resulting loss of management layers. As a result, employees at all stages of their working lives have less time to leave lasting impressions on both their peers and bosses.

The Presence of Presence

Top executives often display the most respect towards employees who embody the “aura” of leadership through strong senses of presence. By making a few concrete changes, perhaps an image makeover or simple presentation training, an extra boost of self-confidence can be just the key to advancing up the weighty steps of the employment ladder. Small changes can dramatically increase the strength of one’s executive presence and lead to faster acceptance of ideas by management.

Perfecting Presence

Both Fortune 500 companies and small, privately owned businesses are launching new campaigns to teach their staff members about the importance of having executive presence. Companies are bringing in professionals to guide their employees through a variety of tools, including voice lessons, acting classes and presentation seminars. These campaigns point to a few crucial factors as instrumental in improving executive presence. One of the most important determinants of a strong presence, body language, can be fortified by the mastering of a firm handshake, direct eye contact and upright posture. To perfect these deceivingly simple habits, CEOs and recruiters recommend pinpointing strengths and weaknesses through journals and careful self-observation.

So how exactly can this lesson on strong executive presence be applied to the life of an everyday college student? Most importantly, the process of gaining presence teaches us not to be afraid of learning through imitation. By focusing on leaders whose behaviors we admire, we can mimic their habits until we develop our own unique, natural leadership styles. By perfecting the art of presence, we can all be on our way to knowing, acting, and looking the part of strong leaders.

by Rebecca Friedman

Source: How To Look and Act Like a Leader – WSJ


One Response to “The Key to Leadership: Having Presence”

  1. D. Wayne McIntyre March 6, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    One of the biggest factors in executive presence is the ability to get what you want or influence. This is one ability that you’ll find in every CEO you meet. Fortunately, this is one area where there are plenty of resources that will help. I recommend the book Executive Presence by Harrison Monarth. I’ve written about what I learned about influence from this book at, if you are interested. Cheers.

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