5 ways to increase your leadership presence

Leadership presence, that illusive but “we know it when we see it” quality, is a blending of personal and interpersonal skills that when combined, send all the right signals. It’s how you show up, how you make others feel, and how effectively you communicate both verbally and non-verbally. It’s the “wow” factor that sets you up for the next promotion and gives your career that extra boost.

Leadership presence is not an attribute that is automatically assigned to you because of your business results. It is not necessarily reflective of your true qualities and potential.

Instead, it depends entirely on how other people in the workplace evaluate you. The first key to building leadership presence is to realize that it is all about impression management. As Suzy Monford, CEO Andronico’s, says: “You need to show up each day the way you want to be perceived – which is simple to say, but difficult to accomplish unless you do your homework and really know yourself.”

  1. Power up your confidence by priming your brain.

Confident people (male and female) attract followers by being self-motivated, assured, and willing to take risks. But even the most confident people may suffer a crisis of self-doubt, and that’s where having a personal strategy becomes crucial.

One key to displaying confidence is to change your physical posture by standing straight, holding your head up and pulling your shoulders back — or even holding a “Superman” or “Wonder Woman” pose for two minutes to elevate your testosterone (the power hormone) level.

But another, equally effective strategy, is to prime your brain for higher confidence by recalling a time when you had power over another person or performed a task extremely well. Focus on what happened, how you felt, and what that experience was like.

  1. Retain your composure

John Sudol, author of “Acting: Face to Face,” coaches actors on how to prepare for an audition, and he offers an interesting insight that applies equally well to business professionals: “One of the things that can throw you off a well-prepared game plan might surprise you. It’s the snap judgments you make about what you read on the interviewer’s face. In an audition, that automatic judgment can provoke a variety of unwanted feelings and thoughts, such as anxiety, self-doubt, and insecurity. If enough stress is produced it can trigger a limbic response and put you into a freeze-fight-or-flee state.

  1. Gain credibility by saying the word because

Credibility is all about how you communicate. It’s about body language that’s aligned with your verbal message and it’s about being truthful, diplomatic, empathetic, succinct, and decisive. But certain words and phrases have almost magical powers to instantly increase your credibility. The word because is one of them.

A study at Harvard, asked people to break into a line of strangers waiting to make photocopies. When asked simply if they could use the photocopier (“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the machine?”), research subjects were successful 60 per cent of the time. However, when a reason beginning with the word because was added (“May I use the photocopier because I’m in a rush”), the request gained instant credibility, and compliance skyrocketed to 94 per cent.

What’s more amazing, it didn’t seem to matter what the given reason was (“May I use the photocopier because I need to make copies”), compliance remained at about the same level, 93%.

  1. Connect more powerfully by changing your focus.

There is no more valuable commodity in today’s business environment, and no more valuable use of your time than to build your professional network, within and external to your organization.

Gayle Hallgren-Rezac and Judy Thomson, networking masters and the co-authors of “WORK THE POND! Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life” talk about ways to optimize any opportunity to network. They say it begins with a change in attitude: Networking is not about promoting yourself or getting new business. It’s about creating or deepening professional relationships.

  1. Display your natural charisma by warming up your body language.

It’s well known that people won’t always remember what you say, but they will never forget how you make them feel. The body language of warmth includes positive eye contact, smiles (which we don’t see enough of in the workplace) and open postures in which legs are uncrossed, and arms are held away from your body, with palms exposed or resting comfortably on the desk or conference table.

But when we view someone’s face from a place of inner security, we know that what’s on their face is about them, so I’ve adopted the mantra What’s on their face is not about me! These words have saved me numerous of times when speaking in large rooms looking out and seeing facial billboards flashing judgment, criticism, boredom, doubt, suspicion. Most often, and ironically, those are the very same people who will approach me after the lecture to thank me for my work and their favorable experience in the audience that day!”