After you’ve read many of the books on executive presence, it’s still clearly a unique quality that’s expressed differently by each leader. There are no set of rules or behaviors that make a leader have strong presence. One leader may express presence by being visionary and inspirational, while another may be analytical and contemplative. Both inspire and motivate in their own ways, and both respond to shifting contexts and business demands.
At the root of presence is an inner wholeness and authenticity. Wholeness stems from a positive inner alignment of the leader’s sense of identity, purpose and passion about life, oneself, and one’s work. There coexists a rare combination of inner peace coupled with energetic drive to make the world a better place.
I know that might sound overwhelming and perhaps a little mysterious. I looked at several books to find some of the concrete qualities of executive presence to share with you. In James Scouller’s Three Levels of Leadership, the author lists seven qualities of pure presence:
- Personal power: This refers to accepting full responsibility for your life direction and behaviors, rather than power over others. You respond both to inner psychological urges and external situations with measured choice and accountability.
- High, real self-esteem: You feel good about yourself, which leads to feeling empathy, tolerance, understanding and respect for others.
- Drive to be more, to grow: You experience a desire to continually surpass your previous level by seeing, understanding and rising above often limiting assumptions and beliefs; you question your mindset that create difficulties.
- Balance: You have a strong sense of purpose and connection with your highest values; you balance this energy with a concern for others’ needs and respect their individual freedom; you keep your focus on a cause bigger than yourself.
- Intuition: You recognize complex circumstances and exercise creative insight, foresight, vision and perceptiveness.
- In the now: You are sensitive to current contexts, vigilant about distracting memories, beliefs and feelings formed in the past or hoped or feared in the future; you strive to be fully present in the here-and-now.
- Inner peace of mind and fulfillment: You don’t let fear and doubt – neither from the past nor for the future – interfere with experiencing a sense of joy, fulfillment and flow.
Not everyone can maintain strong presence all of the time, of course, but these seven qualities provide a clear, concrete description of the behaviors that build presence. These qualities give us things we can work on to express more leadership presence more frequently.