Thursday, February 26, 2009

Improving Your Leadership Presence

1. Get feedback. And don’t ask just anyone. You need to know how the people you serve really feel. You also need to know how your contemporaries feel. To know how people really feel, the feedback must be anonymous in some cases. Every organization's culture is different. But you cannot lead effectively without influence. You have to know if the influence is there. "He who thinks he leads and no one follows, is just taking a stroll in the woods."

2. Get advice. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Allow God to guide you through His Spirit and others He has placed around you. I heard one leader say, "I don't care what or how they are doing things in another state." Knowing where you stand against the target is important; so is getting advice on what to do differently. Every leader at every level needs more than one mentor. One mentor can sometimes be wrong. Also, get advice from your colleagues.

3. Observe role models. One leader said, "I am the role model." Be careful. Pride goes before a fall. Start paying attention to other leaders who are being effective. Watch how they conduct themselves, and see if there are things you can pick up.

4. Use a coach or consultant. External coaches or consultants are often used to help prepare high potential leaders to get ready for or transition into senior positions, and are often called on to assist with presence. It is easy to develop tunnel vision without the fresh look of an outside consultant.

5. Take a presentations skills course. A lot of leadership presence has to do with honed presentation skills. Giving good presentations is a known technology, and there are several workshops you can take, including:
- Blessing White’s Leading Out Loud
- Communispond’s Executive Presentation Skills
- Dale Carnegie has a number of programs
- Join your local Toastmaster’s

6. Take a media training course. Too many leaders do not understand how to effectively communicate with this generation. They use all technology and media. While learning how to deal with the media is something only the highest ranking executives will need to learn, you can use the same techniques to improve how you field tough questions thrown at you. There are also executive presentation and media training consultants.

7. Talk to an image consultant. This is a resource and industry I've only recently become familiar with. I was asked to find help for a leader who kept injuring his own reputation. There was no moral failure, but his likeability factor was just very low. After some research, it turns out there’s actually an Association for Image Consultants International that provides professional certification and a consultant directly.

8. Join a gym or work out regularly. Body language speaks volumes. And, much body language comes from how we move around. If our balance is off, we have difficulty getting up or down, or if we can't dodge a thrown shoe quickly, we come across as out of shape. People feel better about following a (physically) strong leader. It also speaks well of our health stewardship.

9. Learn how to lead meetings. Meetings are where we “show up” as a leader. Like presentation skills, there’s a science to meeting management that can be learned. And honing your meeting leadership skills helps you become a better meeting participant. Ask a skilled trainer to teach you "facilitation" (how to lead a discussion) skills.

10. Read. Among other titles, consider books on leadership, presentation skills, and biographies of role model leaders.

Are there other ways to improve leadership presence? Please comment with your ideas.

[Based on Great Leadership by Dan McCarthy]

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