I was interviewing stakeholders recently for one of my client executives and the person started referring to “The It Factor” and to what degree my client was exhibiting “IT.”
If you’re a Leader (or you develop Leaders, or you work for Leaders), you might be wondering, just what the heck is it? This mysterious “it” is what makes describing Leadership difficult for some people.
“It” is Leadership Presence. I’ve developed my own working model for Leadership Presence and it has three layers. The three layers are:
The foundation is Be Present. All Leadership starts with being present: physically,mentally, and emotionally. The easiest and most important part of Leadership is showing up!! Leaders must be seen. Leaders must be heard. That’s a critical start, but Leaders also must be mentally present. Who’s not familiar with how it feels to be in the presence of someone who’s mind is a million miles away, thinking about his own problems or focusing on his iPhone. And most importantly, Leaders must be emotionally present. You need to be present to what your followers are feeling and experiencing, whatever it is, without judgment. Just Be Present… in the present.
The second layer is Have Presence. Another way of saying this is Have Impact. Leaders have an impact on people. People feel something in your presence. This can look completely different for every leader, but the common denominator is that other people feel something in your presence. It is not charisma. Some Leaders are indeed charming, but just as many are eccentric, or intense, or quiet. Think of what happens when someone with presence walks into a room. There is an energy that can be felt by others. The root of this is Authenticity. Most people do not project pure authenticity. Most of us wear all kinds of masks and emotional armor in order to navigate the world. When you shed the armor and become authentically present for people, your presence is felt. Powerfully felt.
The third layer is the active layer of Leadership Presence, which I call Present Yourself. This is where Leaders choose to impact the world. Leaders put themselves to good use in service of the world around them. Leaders stake their claim to bring about a change in the world around them. In corporate business life this often takes the form of “presentations,” but you can Present Yourself in the way that you communicate, the way that you give feedback, the way that you make decisions, the way that you conduct meetings, the way you articulate your vision, the way you fire someone, and on and on. How effectively you present yourself is entirely dependent upong being fully present and having presence. In short, you present yourself (your authentic self) to the world as a compelling choice for people to follow.
The three layers of Leadership Presence are permeated by the development themes of Awareness, Authenticity, and Action. I’ll use my next blog post to flesh these out more fully, but as the model suggests, the core of Leadership is Authenticity. People follow you NOT because of what you say or what you do, but rather, because of Who You Are.