In a leadership skill training workshop this week (you can learn more and sign up for future sessions here), the group and I began talking about the value of presence and charisma as keys to leadership influence. While the conversation was wide ranging; examples shared there, and others that I can add now based on my further reflection make the point clearly.
Highly effective leaders have a presence. People seem to be drawn to them. You can call it charisma, you can call it presence, you can call it a gift (and though these are all related, they aren’t exactly the same).
For the purposes of this post I want to focus on presence – that characteristic or behavior that is hard to quantify but easy to see. Some people (and a huge percentage of the most successful people) seem to have “it.”
If we believe that we are either born with this trait or not, there wouldn’t be much reason for me to write this post or you to read it.
I don’t believe that is true. The stories from the class and my personal experience tells me that there are tangible things you can do to make a big difference.
Here are some of the personal examples shared during the class discussion . . .
Dick Cheney. “He gets a awful rap in the media. When I spent time with him he was 100% engaged with me – he was interested and with me the full time of our conversation.”
John McCain. “I’ve never met anyone like him. I’ve had conversations with people who made eye contact, but he was so intense in his focus on me that it almost felt like he was looking through me to the back of my head. I was very impressed and have never experienced anything like it.”
Bill Clinton. “I didn’t want to like him, but he is so completely focused on you and interested in you when you meet him, you can’t help but like the guy.”
Jack Canfield. “When you are talking with him, you feel like the most important person in the world. It is as if nothing else matters.”
You may have a personal example or have heard of one like those above.
The people and their leadership styles are different, but the commonality is clear.
Presence is (at least in part) about being present.
Want to have better presence? Want people to be drawn to you?
Be interested in them. Ask them questions. And do it in the present moment. Listen, focus and care.
Are these things easy to do (all the time)?
No. (If they were I wouldn’t have to write this post.)
But all of us CAN do them and HAVE done them in the past. Our leadership challenge then is to commit to remaining in the present moment with others more often.
Want greater presence? Be more present.