In a recent leadership coaching session I was speaking with a truly gifted leader with enormous potential. As we sorted through what she desired to achieve in our work together, she pondered for a moment and then a bright smile came across her face. She described someone she had recently met at a seminar that greatly moved her. I asked what it was that was so moving. She said that it was the way she was and not anything she said or did. My young executive was speaking of a Compelling Leadership Presence.
My work in leadership and Executive Recruiting is focused on finding leaders with or capable of developing a Compelling Leadership Presence.
What is a Compelling Leadership Presence? It is a combination of Body, Mind and Spirit that exudes a way of being that motivates others to trust them and follow their leadership without hesitation. This motivation occurs before any verbal communication and comes from the non-verbal attributes of the executive’s presence. Verbal communication and wise decisions enhance the compelling leadership presence but do not initiate it.
The secret in my observation lies within the fact that the “non-verbal” communication of the executive is the primary force behind a compelling leadership presence. Non-verbal communication emanates from a deeper place of being wherein lie values, beliefs, and attitudes about others. The executive’s presence displays these inner traits and sends out signals that others pick up at deep levels of interaction. Thus before such a leader speaks there is a captivating arena of acceptance.
Previously I stated that I seek out leaders with this quality, or those who can develop a compelling leadership presence. What do I look for that provides insights into future development in this critical area? It is not a magic formula and it does come in different shapes of personalities and behaviors. Yet, there are some core elements that must be present before such a presence can be developed.
What are these elements?
Humility with confidence (versus arrogance)
Placing a cause or team first, ahead of personal attainment
Excellent interpersonal skills
Emotional quotient to have empathy for others and be able to see what they see and walk in their shoes
A burning passion for creating a world in which positive differences are realized by all those around them
Excellent listeners at a deep level
Constant learners keeping the “cutting edge” on their offer
Care and concern in every interaction
Mastery of the 20 Leadership Competencies (see our Leadership Assessment section for the Leadership Potential Indicator Report.) Some of these must be innate while others can be learned.
The capability of one developing a compelling leadership presence is often accelerated in the hands of a mentor, coach or boss who sees the potential in the executive and shapes it into a vision that the executive wholeheartedly embraces. This vision can literally serve to shape the way the executive moves in their world thus developing a Compelling Leadership Presence. I have yet to find a successful leader (Level 5 as Jim Collins in “Good to Great” would describe) who does not quickly share the importance a mentor had to their success.
I would estimate that less than 30% of current leaders have the capability to develop a compelling leadership presence, and fewer than 5% of these will actually realize this goal. More could be developed but there is a lack of awareness as to how important this is for the sustainable, long-term success of any organization.
Let me conclude by sharing that many will desire to build a compelling leadership presence but most will give up long before they succeed. It is not something that can be learned with the mind (as so often taught in education) nor can it be done simply by will. It is the principle of 300 versus 3,000, which is the subject of another blog.
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