Increasing Executive Presence might be the key to leadership success


Increasing Executive Presence might be the key to leadership success

Taking on a new role, increased scope in an existing role, operating in a constantly changing competitive environment – all of these are next level situations for senior managers and leaders according to Scott Eblin in his book, The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

He describes managing at the next level and in particular describes the ability of letting go of traditional traits and concentrating on some core leaderships skills which he has gleaned from over one thousand, 360 degree assessments.

Taken from the publication he suggests that the NEXT LEVEL MODEL OF LEADERSHIP PRESENCE consists of three core levels of ability being Personal Presence, Team Presence and Organisational Presence. He then characterizes areas to develop and areas that we might need to drop if we are to be successful as a modern-day leader.

I would like to share several experiences I have had as an executive coach, mentor and adult development professional regarding the three areas of development and describe interventions that have led to improved performance with sustainable effect.

In the first of three articles I will share my thoughts and experiences around personal presence and some of the methods I have been able to use to help executives enhance their ability in this area.

Personal Presence

Our ability to develop presence to our team and our peers is primarily influenced by our own perception of our ability to do our job well. Many executives are promoted into management based on their ability to carry out functions well and yet the ability to continue to carry out technical tasks is not necessarily fully conducive to excellent leadership skills.

In my experience a team member does not want to feel intimidated by their boss who may be a technical expert, but would like the space to develop their own ability in the function, occasionally having the support of an expert if and when required.

Many executives I have worked with admit to feeling daunted by their new role and vulnerable in their ability to lead a team. One client recently admitted to me that they question what their role actually was now that they have been promoted to a leader. In the past, they could clearly evidence the value they were adding to the business by way of output. This is harder to do when the team they manage is “producing the goods”. It was almost as if they were waiting for someone to spot that their role was not adding value and perhaps, they were no longer needed!

Often, there is an element of imposter syndrome, where self-doubt causes people to doubt their achievements and fear that others will expose them as fraudulent.

Having a clear understanding of the role of a leader can help executives gain confidence in their ability to lead and exude the presence expected of them. Awareness is often the starting point of a thoroughly enjoyable development journey for a new leader and is complimented with regular sessions with an executive coach where the coach can support the new executive on a journey from awareness through to developing presence without arrogance.

Formal leadership development can play a role hear too, where expectations of leadership over management can be explained prior to practice.

John P Kotter, author and Professor at Harvard Business School, identified three areas of focus for leaders, comparing these with the typical role of a manger:

John P Kotter

It is interesting to note the management tasks that Kotter includes under the heading of management as these are attributes that can help the manager evidence outputs. This can feel comfortable. The leadership skills are less so and demand an ability to paint and communicate a vision and inspire and energize people into action.

Communication skills play a significant role in developing executive presence. An ability to communicate with your team, peers and of course wider stakeholders requires both thought and planning.

Workshops that help prepare a new executive to consider their ability to communicate effectively at different levels are an excellent away to help introduce them to skills such as stakeholder mapping, situational leadership techniques and creating the correct conditions for great communication interventions. I have one we regularly run with great success

Many of my clients that have developed from sales or people centric roles have been trained well in the art of communication however I find this less so with technical experts who have found that for most of their client facing engagements they have been listened to despite their poor ability to communicate, purely as their audience have taken the time to listen based on their own desire to learn.

Developing the skills to command an audience who are less inclined to listen takes both skill and practice which is where combining workshop type skill development with coaching, to help imbed the new found skills can be an advantage.

Coaching can also support the sales savvy communicator to enhance their executive presence by developing wider and transferable communication skills and to be able to have conversations that inspire.

At the heart of great communication is the ability to listen. Learning to listen to connect  enables us to listen and not judge, confirm or reject; It is a way of listening to the other person with a focus on them not you. It’s bigger than listening to understand (which is more about listening to confirm what you know). Listening to connect is about focusing your attention on the other person: What are they trying to say? What are they thinking? What are they hoping you will help them explore? Connect to their ‘world’ and explore their world.

People thrive on connection and affirmation, not criticism and judgment. When we listen to connect we create a platform for peering into each other’s minds and become the catalyst of our next-generation thinking, enabling us to set more helpful, meaningful, and productive objectives for the future. When we adopt the framework of listening to connect, we improve our ability to connect, navigate and grow with others. We make better friends, better parents, and better partners – and in business we make better decisions and become better leaders for the present and the future.

Finally, our ability to manage ourselves is based on some core competencies such as eating well, sleeping well and being able to converse openly with peers, friends and family. If we are able to look after ourselves we are able to start the journey of developing those that have chosen to follow you as a leader.

In the next article I will look at the skills required and examples of development methods we use to enhance Team Presence.

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About Tim Anderson
Tim has over thirty years’ experience within the sales environment as a sales person, a sales manager, a sales director and as a mentor and coach. He has run sales teams as a sales director within the IT sector as a direct re seller, a VAR and as an MSP. He has developed and exited from two IT businesses and supported three training and development organisations to grow their businesses by supporting their commercial offering. He has taken these teams through change initiatives . Tim continues to develop himself as a coach and has successfully taken his coaching into executive and leadership coaching. He has combined coaching with management and leadership development and regularly supports senior managers to take their next step upward in their careers. He is a qualified coach and a Chartered Manager and also holds a degree in professional consulting.

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