Presence is more than just being there. — Malcolm S. Forbes
Presence as the ability to be attentive and able to respond in the moment. Being present is a key characteristic of effective leaders. Often, we are distracted by a full plate, worry and other pressures. While we may be physically with others, be it colleagues, family or staff, they sense we are not fully with them and we can easily miss what they are saying. They leave without feeling heard or supported.
However, when a leader is present with us, we feel alive in their presence and sense they are with us in the moment. By being present, leaders inspire people to take action. The art of strengthening one’s presence, like improvisational jazz, is to be “in” the immediate moment while being able to respond to the rhythm of what is happening in the moment. We know it when we experience presence and others do too. When we are not present it can feel like “we are not all there”, or act in a manner that suggests derailment from our own resources. The challenge is to recognize when we are derailed in relation to our own presence and once recognized, our challenge is to learn how to return to the aliveness of our presence– where choice for action resides. When we are present, we easily connect with others and they feel understood, valued and seen.
One of the most important things leaders can do is to become self-aware and have the intention of being present with others.
Make it your intention to be present as you interact with others. Notice what supports you in being present, how you feel and the outcomes.
Some Suggestions for Developing an Effective Leadership Presence
- Expose yourself to new ideas, people, and places to become more aware of your own possibilities and choices.
- Ask others for feedback about what you do and the impact this has on them.
- Pay attention to recurring patterns and issues and be open to exploring them. For example, if you continually find yourself regretting your commitments to people and activities, be curious about what happens, how it happens, and why it happens, under what (un-aware) circumstances.
- Practice being grateful, optimistic, and hopeful about life. Assume the “glass is half full.” Both positive and negative emotions are contagious; far better for both yourself and others to exude a positive aura. Notice how you are identified, and work towards stronger support for more possibilities and choices.
- Become aware of your values and of what is of primary importance to you, and reflect on how you are actualizing your values and priorities.
- Be open with others regarding your dreams and hopes, which builds support for self- and other-work.
- Practice empathy and forgiveness for self and others.
- Assess your habits, and work on strengthening and developing new habits that support you and others.
- Engage in thoughtful reflection, and engage in behavioral experiments with a coach or colleagues.
- Create a personal, team, and organizational vision that is compelling; take actions to move towards those visions. Take risks and explore new actions and habits to support achievement of your visions.
- Interact respectfully with people who are different than you—in philosophy, age, culture, and experience; be willing to learn from them.