Do you know Dan?

Dan looks like an executive.  He sports designer suits and has an impeccable appearance that exudes affluence and status.  His demeanor commands attention and respect, and his smile and charm top off the overall polished impression he makes.  His presentation skills are smooth and his articulate command of language serve to convince others of his competence and high credibility.

Once you spend more time with Dan, though, the impression you had initially formed doesn’t seem to fit your experience with him over time.  The more regularly you interact with him, the more you realize that Dan seems very different from the persona of his initial external presence.  He seems to lack substance behind the words he uses, depth in his analyses, and empathy towards others.  He seeks attention and validation constantly and needs to be the most vocal and smartest person in the room in most settings.  Despite his polished façade, something critical is missing.

In my work with leaders over the years, the concept of “presence” comes up a lot.  Organizations are often looking to develop this elusive sense of “leadership presence” in their leaders.

We want people to embody “it”.

What is this “presence” we keep referring to and wanting to develop?  Not the presence like the description of Dan above, but deeper, lasting presence?  It is a presence that embodies a certain type of energy and exudes an aura that solicits lasting respect and admiration. When we dig deeper, we often can’t quite put our finger on exactly what this lasting notion of “presence”  we are after really is, as it is so much more than the description of just an outward persona described above in Dan.

When others have described it to me, these are some of the things they say:

“Someone who carries him/herself with a sense of confidence that isn’t arrogant, who is competent, connects with you on a deeper level, and who you just know deserves your respect.”

“Someone you believe”

“An ability to deeply listen to you and make you feel as if you are the most important person in the room.”

“A genuine person that just lights up the room but doesn’t dominate it”

“Looks polished, is articulate and appropriate in his/her speech, is authentic, connects with people, and is comfortable in his/her own skin.

What I have come to realize over the years working with people to develop this elusive notion of enduring presence is that presence is made up of essentially four components that integrate and work with each other:

1.    Your Outward Persona

How you look, what you wear, the condition of your body, how you carry yourself, your body language and mannerisms, your vocal quality and tone, what you say, your presentation style, and your overall demeanor.

2.    Your Inner State of Being

Your grounded confidence or insecurity, your focus, your mind chatter, your energy, and your intentions, beliefs and assumptions.

3.    Your Connectivity to Others

Your ability or inability to genuinely connect with other people, listen, have empathy, show authentic interest, and create and sustain real relationships. How do you make others feel?

4.    Your Personal Credibility

Your ability to demonstrate real competence, reliability, and trustworthiness.

All four of these combine together to personify your “presence” in the world.  Essentially, it is how all four of these thing show up and represent you.  In Dan’s case, he had the outward persona of what he believed an executive looks like down pat, but the other three elements he neglected to develop or give focus to diminished his overall “leadership presence”.

What we are talking about here is developing an intentional, consistent, and enduring leadership presence.

Take some time and think more intentionally about your own presence.

How would you characterize your presence?  Is it intentional, consistent and enduring?

  • Are you like Dan—focused only on the outward persona part of your presence?
  • Does your outward appearance match the persona and the socio-cultural expectations of someone in your field?
  • Is your mind always scattered or are you focused and present?
  • Do you deeply listen and give your full attention and interest to people or are you focused on yourself?
  • Is your mind riddled with insecurity and anxiety or do you feel centered and confident most of the time?
  • Can people rely on you and trust what you say?
  • Do you take pride in what you do and continuous learning?
  • Are you intentional about the impact of your words and behavior or do you just say whatever comes to your mind?
  • If you are a leader, do you stand up and believe you can lead or do you shrink and wait for others to act?

If you asked people to describe your presence most of the time, what do you think they would say?  How do you show up in the world most of the time?

How would you describe your  personal “it” factor?

What do you need to do to be more intentional about and more fully develop your own enduring brand of presence?


As always, feel free to send me a note about your own thoughts on this topic.