You know when they arrive. They have a certain energy, a vibe, a kind of magnetic pull. People hush and want to listen when they speak.
What makes a Nelson Mandela, a Barrack Obama, a Mother Theresa, a Dr Kiran Bedi, a Kofi Annan so compelling?
Is it charisma? Is it power? Is it command?
Where do they get their gravitas?
This is what I’ve observed of leaders with distinctive presence:
- They don’t hurry, but are deliberate and focused.
- They don’t intimidate, but uplift and inspire.
- They’re serious and also enjoy a joke.
- They are humble and step up to be responsible.
- They are patient and decisive when required.
- No one is beneath their respect and attention.
So how do you get gravitas and presence?
It boils down to what you BE – THINK – DO.
How to BE.
- You have a deep awareness of your own vulnerability, of your own open-heart that is deeply authentic and transparent. And strong vulnerability does not mean weak – it means accepting of all of one’s self – strengths and challenges, and not hiding from owning one’s mistakes and failing.
- You have a deep connection to your personal values – it governs all your choices and focus.
- You have a larger-than-yourself sense of purpose – your life’s work is about contribution and meaning.
- You speak from a place of one-ness -of the deep abiding awareness that we and all things are interconnected and interdependent.
How to THINK.
- You think in systems, paradox, and polarities. Nothing is black and white nor linear.
- You can consider the individual and the collective at the same time.
- You communicate in metaphors, parables, and models.
- You consider the context and impact on multiple generations, multiple communities, multiple nations.
- You look for the win-win-win solutions.
How you DO.
- You have world-class self-mastery habits. Dr Kiran Bedi is reknown for her lifelong commitment to physical exercise (having been a national tennis champion for India).
- You have a regular self-reflective practice that may also be spiritual.
- You seek guidance from both internal and external worlds, from both practical and mystical sources.
- You are fastidious with who and what you surround yourself with -to allow the best thinking and inspiration.
- You coach other leaders to be, think, and do more.
- You are an extraordinary communicator. You can distill the essence of your message succinctly, use a palate of expressions and language that reaches all audiences.
Charisma helps. Charm and friendliness is very compelling, but it’s not the whole story. You need depth as well as sparkle. In fact, depth of spirit and character will make the difference between a charismatic flash in the pan and a bright and shining beacon.
Physicality matters. Being tall and good looking is an added bonus, not a requirement. Standing tall, shoulders back with confidence and openness will make up for much lack of stature. Voice modulation, accent, gestures – these are all important aspects of presence, but they are the bow that gets the box noticed. Content and value trumps wrapping and fluff.
What have you noticed about leaders with presence? What can you recommend in developing leadership presence?