07 Oct

Unleash Your Leadership Presence for a Value-Added Career

 

Whether you are a corporate leader or a high achieving entrepreneur, everyone today is scrambling to upgrade their professional presence to stand above the competition. We all have good intentions in that regard, but many times we are not really focused on our presence but are instead fixated on the next bright, shiny object.

With such hectic schedules we may not be taking the time each morning to really dress with intent, for instance, to adequately represent our personal brands. Or we may be frazzled and worried by the lackluster economy and living in fear of downsizing, layoffs, or lost revenues. We may not really be listening with full attention, for example, to our co-workers or peers as we multi-task to make every minute of the workday count.

If someone were to spend a day observing us they might actually get the impression that we are running around like the hamster on the wheel, working hard but really getting nothing accomplished. Considering how much pressure everyone is under these days I’d like to share with you a few easy methods to help you enhance your leadership presence in three different critical areas.

Defining Presence

Webster’s dictionary offers several different definitions of presence, including three I want to talk with you about that are directly related to the kind of multi-dimensional presence I work on with my clients.

Webster’s definitions:

  1. “The ability to project a sense of ease, poise or self-assurance.”
  2. “The state of being present.”
  3. “Personal appearance.”

Projecting Presence as a Poised Leader

I see so many professionals struggling to get through stressful workdays that are intensified by high demands, pressing deadlines, greater responsibility, and the sense of being torn between their career expectations and home life.

Career expectations are higher today than ever before. If you are a corporate leader your team is looking at your presence and taking their cues from your actions. If you are an entrepreneur aspiring to be a leader in your area of expertise, others are making judgments about your presence before they decide to buy your goods or services.

Having the ability to project a sense of ease and self-assurance is imperative, but not everyone is born with natural poise and self-confidence. Most of us have also had some serious disappointments in life and those setbacks may make us feel insecure as we second-guess ourselves every step of the way. A difficult conversation with a boss, prospect, or client can quickly cause our presence to wither and shrink.

The good news is that professional presence does not have to come naturally to you because it is a learnable skill. All it takes is some insight, training, and practice. I teach it to top leaders all the time, and I can certainly teach it to you.

But it’s essential to remember that although your day may be stressful, it’s not what happens to you that is most important – it’s how you react and respond to what happens to you that counts. Be confident in your abilities, recognize your strengths, and then leverage them to your advantage. When leaders can begin to evaluate stressful events through a positive lens of understanding the shift in perspective is powerfully transformational.

We are all given big challenges in life, but none that we are incapable of handling. When we overcome them and continue to make progress we are rewarded with greater confidence and self-assurance. It is at that point in our development that we begin to exude authentic leadership presence.

Being Present in the Moment

I know that when I was in my corporate retail job there were times when I was not fully present. I was constantly multi-tasking, but new research confirms that when we are multi-tasking we are less focused and not nearly as productive.

We all do multi-tasking to some extent, but I think it’s important to remember how it affects and dilutes your presence. When an employee or colleague needs to speak with you on the phone or in person, do you continue to scan your email inbox or glance at your smart phone? If you don’t give them your full undivided attention then you are not really present. This means that when someone enters your office or calls you on the phone, you need to be, as they say in the military, “all present and accounted for.”

Forget about your grocery list or what time you have to pick your kids up from soccer practice. Just listen. Stay in the conversational dance with them for the time being. When you give people your attention in that way it is a sign of respect and people will, in turn, respect you for maintaining a high level of professional presence.

Professional Appearance

These days professional appearance has fallen victim to a laid-back corporate culture and has become far too casual, in my opinion. If you lack confidence and the knowledge of how to dress to leverage your personal assets of image and brand, then you’ll tend to dress based on how you feel about yourself – versus dressing up a notch to command a more professional and memorable appearance.

Many professionals, for example, don’t grasp the importance of building a professional wardrobe that offers versatility for dressing for all kinds of different business occasions and environments. But if you are a leader in today’s business world you need to have a variety of professional looks at your disposal. If you are speaking on behalf of your organization, for instance, you need a wardrobe that communicates that you are a recognized expert. When meeting with a client in an ultra-casual industry, on the other hand, you don’t want to appear overdressed and risk alienating them. Yet you still want to wear clothes that clearly convey that you are credible and trustworthy and are the right person for the job.

Professional appearance takes into account all of the following components, so ask yourself how you rate on all of these aspects of professional appearance:

  • Hair Style
  • Personal Grooming Habits
  • Authentic Personal Brand & Image
  • Company Brand and Values
  • A Professional Look for Every Business Occasion
  • Power Colors
  • Business Styles
  • Proper Fit and Drape of Garments
  • Valet of Clothing
  • Mixing and Matching
  • Accentuating Physical Attributes
  • Disguising Body Challenges
  • Communicating through Wardrobe Presence
  • Coordinated Professional Accessories
  • The Four Levels of Business Dress

When I coach executives one-on-one or lead corporate development seminars and workshops people always say how amazed they are that no one before me has ever taught them how to exude professional presence. In fact, one of my clients commented that although she works in a Fortune 100 company and holds an MBA degree, no one along the way ever taught her how to gain a real authentic sense of presence.

After you begin to strategically enhance your professional presence it doesn’t instantly happen in a single day or just one session, because it is an ongoing process of profound personal discovery. But once you start the journey you will continually build greater confidence and poise and experience the thrill of being in the leadership spotlight – taking center stage to distinguish yourself from the competition.


As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.

Illustra Consulting
Copyright © 2010, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

678-528-1239, [email protected]
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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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