Develop Your Leadership Presence (HBR)

What about when you are pushed in front of the microphone or given very little prep time for something like an introduction of a guest speaker?

This question came from Tonya in response to my previous post on developing your leadership pitch.

Here’s the quick answer, you walk to the microphone and you smile. You take a moment to size up the audience and then you say what you have to say briefly and to the point. Most importantly, as they advise running backs who score touchdowns, act like you have been there before. The great ones hand the ball back the referee; the wannabes whoop and holler.

At the microphone, remain calm. Why? Because you are in control! Your stomach may be churning and your palms may be sweaty, but you must realize the microphone is in your hands. This is a little secret that I share with people I coach: people have to listen to you. Whether you croon or wax eloquent, the audience is at your mercy.

You are the master of your destiny, or at least the next five minutes. When you keep that thought in mind, you will realize that yes, you can do this. You can speak in front of an audience and you will be okay.

Such behavior is how you cultivate your leadership presence, a topic I address in, Lead Your Boss, The Subtle Art of Managing UpI define leadership presence as earned authority. You may have a title, but you need to earn the respect and trust of your coworkers. Presence is rooted in fundamental competence, and for anyone who aspires to lead, presence is essential. Developing this is a long process that goes far beyond speaking in public.

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First posted on 10.21.2009