To different degrees and at one time or another, we’ve all experienced the power of presence — the person who by simply walking into the room draws the attention and respect of those around them. Or the person who joins a conference call riddled with distractions and, simply by showing up, creates a level of attention and curiosity.
Yes, I am speaking of executive leadership presence. It involves focus, consciousness, integrity and intention, which generates teamwork, conflict resolution, breakthroughs and, ultimately, innovation, organization and growth. There is a new level of leadership emerging. Stop, look and listen; it’s within you and all around you.
The keyword here is “presence," which quite literally means being present. Conceptually, it sounds simple, however, people who embody it know it takes discipline to execute. I recommend five essentials to master as a foundation and fresh perspective for cultivating executive leadership presence in the 21st century, where the pace of change is greater than any other time in history.
Stop overthinking. If you are reworking the past, you are in the past. If you are over-analyzing the future, you are in the future. If you are thinking about how others are viewing you, you are preoccupied. Bring all of your attention to the present moment. Focus and cultivate mindfulness.
Breathe. When you stand tall, cool and collected, all the while breathing fully into your body, more of you is in the room. Ask yourself right now, “Is my breathing shallow and just at my throat/chest region? Perhaps I am even holding my breath. Or is it full, naturally filling my lower belly and lower back?”
Try this expanded practice of diaphragmatic breathing: Breathe in, and for a moment, hear and feel your breath as it moves into your body and your belly gently rises and falls. Breathe out, hearing the breath and feeling where the breath connects to the body. Explore this practice throughout your day and see if it allows you to be more present. Be where you are without judgment and breathe deeply. Just play with it until it becomes automatic. Added bonus: breathing reduces stress!
Move your body. This seems basic, yet we all get caught up during the day and forget to move. Your body is the often-overlooked key to a greater presence. Make an appointment with yourself to move your body daily. Even taking 5-10 minute movement breaks throughout the day add up to create positive affects in your posture, confidence and overall wellbeing. An influencer leads by example, so make body movement a priority.
Harness your emotions. Think of all your emotions as available energy to direct towards a goal. One quick, effective way to move away from undesired reactions to your emotions is by taking a balcony perspective. From that elevation, redirect any energy flooding your body, breathe deeply, and stay focused on the purpose at hand by asking, “What’s the highest, best use of my time right now?” or “What problem are we solving? And why?” By doing this, you avoid an amygdala hijack, thereby harnessing your emotions to direct and respond rather than react.
Practice 'elegant' listening. Be present and consider the entire team, company or mission you are working with. From this place, you are able to take conversations deeper and into breakthrough insights by listening elegantly and questioning. This is listening inside, outside, with all your senses, at 360 degrees, with curiosity and tabling bias and judgment. You are thereby combining level 4 listening and active listening towards true transformation.
It is possible to expand our executive leadership presence while also increasing personal resilience and situational awareness by not overthinking, breathing more deeply throughout the day, moving our bodies to optimize well-being, purposely harnessing our emotions towards overarching goals and, all the while, practicing elegant listening.
Try this affirmation while visualizing yourself succeeding: “By being fully present with myself and others, I am able to influence and create positive change in the world around me.”