We’ve all known people who have great presence, a quality that enables them to inspire and lead others. But as much as personal presence is a desirable trait, it’s also a challenge to develop.
Kristi Hedges, a leadership coach, speaker, and author, talked with AMA about leadership presence in a recent Edgewise podcast. She believes that many people want to enhance their executive presence, but they don’t know what that would look like in their case. While people are good at assessing the presence of others, she said, they have a hard time doing the same for themselves in an objective and honest manner.
“We can pick up people very quickly…. Yet, about ourselves, we often are just flying blind in terms of how we show up to others,” said Hedges, author of The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Engage and Influence Others (AMACOM, 2017 paperback edition).
Three components of presence
Hedges has created a three-part model that provides an accessible way to think about and work on building presence—which she defines as “the ability to connect with and inspire others.” The components of her model are:
Be intentional. An aspiring leader must be clear about how he or she wants to show up to others. Hedges said that many leaders, including those at the highest levels of an organization, do not really address this issue. She suggests that you ask yourself, “What do I want people to take away from me?” Then make sure your actions are aligned with that intention.
Build individual connections. Here, Hedges recommends two questions related to relationship building: “How do I increase trust in what I say and do?” and “How do I communicate empathy so that people feel a connection to me?” Keep in mind that communicating empathy is not the same as feeling empathy.
Look to inspire others. This component is about a leader’s orientation to others, Hedges said. In the many opportunities that leaders have to inform others, they should think about how to inspire them instead. “Just change out the word,” she said. “You can see how things might start to open up.”
Hedges notes that both introverts and extroverts can have great presence. It’s not so much about external factors—such as the way you speak and look—as it is about being able to connect with others. “When I really looked at what makes a great leader from a presence standpoint, it’s about the connection,” she said.
Managers can build their personal influence by understanding the psychology and principles of persuasion. Learn how to apply these principles to a variety of business interactions.