"How is leader presence any different from normal presence?" My student asked this question immediately after I defined the two elements that make up a first impression; your perceived confidence and your approachability. My student persisted with a follow up question before I could even respond, "I mean, isn't your presence just these two things, whether you're a leader or not?"
I went to the whiteboard and drew two overlapping circles and labeled one with Confidence and one with Approachability. Then I spoke to the class. "We all have a presence perceived by the audience in these two areas. That is true... but leaders also have a 3rd element." I drew a third overlapping circle, in typical Venn Diagram fashion, and labeled it Vision.
Let's Quickly Review the Definition of Leadership
We've already reviewed the first two elements of leader presence over the past two weeks. The first week we discussed Confidence, and last week we reviewed Approachability. This third element is called Vision and all true leaders have it.
In the past I've given you my simple definition of leadership which consists of only two parts. First, all leaders are going somewhere. If they're not moving then they really aren't leading. You can only lead if you go somewhere. Second, all leaders have followers. You actually can't have one without the other. By definition and simple logic, one cannot exist without the other. If you have one, the other is assumed.
The 3rd Element of Leader Presence is VISION
I remind you of this definition of Leadership because the 3rd element of Leader Presence is also logical based on our definition of a leader. The leaders who project leader presence are doing three things:
- They're going somewhere
- They're taking followers with them
- They're doing this by telling followers about the destination
In other words, the 3rd and final piece is about the leader casting the vision. Without the vision, they may show confidence and approachability, but they can't be leading because they're not going anywhere!
Some leaders are so good at communicating their vision of the future that they almost sound like time travelers! The leader describes the future state in such great detail and with such confidence it actually sounds like they're from the future!
Leader Presence is three things: Projected Confidence, Approachability, and Vision.
But... How can I Communicate My Vision?
Here's the Risky Part...
Do you know exactly what’s going to happen in the future? No. Let’s be honest… as much as we analyze the past and then predict and plan for the future, we don’t know with 100% certainty if it will actually happen. It’s not a sure thing. We're not only asking our team to step outside their own comfort zones, we're stepping outside of ours too.
We just don't know and that uncertainty can eat away at our minds and absolutely kill our leader presence. But, we need to project confidence (1 of the 3 key elements of Leader Presence!) and therein lies the rub. When you cast a vision, it will inherently include risk. That risk generates fear in our mind, which ultimately can damage the confidence we're projecting in our leader presence. Vicious cycle, isn't it?
How can we overcome this risk of an unknown future?
It's called COURAGE. Speaking up when something needs to be said, takes courage. Pointing everyone in a new direction you believe in, takes courage. Whether you have a leadership title or not, casting a vision into the unknown will take courage. In a nutshell, it always takes courage to lead. So be ready to kill the doubt when it enters your mind.
Do you want opportunities to practice your leadership skills? Here’s an easy way to find them… Find the FEAR… and then step into it. Fear is not weakness. Fear is a normal human response to risk. How you respond to that fear determines your courage as a leader. People will see fear when they see risk. It will take courage for the leader to step into it.
So go out there and be courageous!
This wraps up our 3 part series on Leader Presence. Here's a summary of all 3 blog posts with links to each.
I'll see you all again next week!
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Russ Peterson Jr. is the co-founder and Managing Director of iSpeak, Inc. - An award-winning professional development training company. Russ is a speaker, international trainer, and published author on Professional Sales Communication and Business Communication. He delivers workshops, keynotes, and personal communication coaching services to business professionals in the US and around the world. You can connect with Russ directly through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.