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10 principles for leadership presence

Build muscle memory to support conviction, commitment, and resilience for yourself and your organization

Source | | Annette Kramer

A version of this article appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of strategy+business.

Think back to the last conference you attended. How many presentations do you remember? Probably not too many. As a leader or aspiring leader at any level, one of the biggest challenges you face is to inspire and motivate other people so that they can take the right actions on behalf of themselves and the group — that is, to have impact. That’s why you want to be a leader with a strong presence not just at conferences, but in every interaction. And if you are such a leader, then every aspect of your presence — including your physical self, your intellect, your voice, and your emotions — is intimately bound up with your message.

Many people in positions of authority struggle with their leadership presence. They adopt the kind of persona that they assume a leader is supposed to have: a TED Talk cadence, authoritative body language, studied informality, and (when speaking publicly) a package of carefully curated slides. This makes these people look and sound like everybody else, because the fashions in leadership presence rapidly become clichés. Most of the time, behaviors like these are immediately recognized as a performance. If you try to adopt them, people will know you aren’t authentic, and they will assume your message isn’t, either.

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