12 Steps to Power Presence

How to Assert Your Authority to Lead

 12 Steps to Power Presence

Author: John Baldoni
Pub Date: April 2010
Print Edition: $14.95
Print ISBN: 9780814434468
Page Count: 68
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814416921

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LEADERS PROJECT POWER through their presence.

You can define leadership presence as the presence of authority

imbued with a reason to believe. What matters to us most is

authenticity. That cannot be faked, but it can be amplified.

Leadership presence is more than style, more than communications.

It is the projection of the leader’s authentic self. That

authenticity is made up of a person’s beliefs and convictions and

reinforced by behavior. That is, it’s not “talking the talk” that

matters, it’s “walking the walk” that makes the difference. It is

what leaders do to convince people to believe in them as people

and as leaders.

Leadership presence is the outward manifestation of leadership

behavior. While leaders project their leadership, followers

authorize it with their approval. Leadership presence is “earned

authority.” Those two words are important. Earned means you

have led by example. Authority means you have the power to lead

others. While organizations confer management roles, it is up to

the leader to prove himself or herself by getting others to follow

his or her lead. A leader must earn the right to lead others. Title is

conferred; leadership is earned.

While leaders project power through presence, it is followers

who authorize it with their approval.

Consider these examples:

* The plant manager who holds meetings on the shop

floor to be close to the work

* The school principal who walks down the hallway

greeting by name the children, who grin and send him

a cheerful greeting

* The military officer who stays with his troops when

the action gets hot and provides a voice of calm when

all hell breaks loose

* The coach who shows players how to play the game

right and in the process demonstrates what it means

to succeed in school and in the community

* The research director who asks questions to stimulate

new lines of inquiry and genuinely listens to responses

* The quarterback who steps into the huddle and has

every player look to him not only for the play but also

for direction

* The mayor who holds weekly meetings with staff

directors and encourages them to present their ideas

about how best to serve the city

* The CEO who works in an open-plan office and eats

in the cafeteria so she can stay in touch with people

and listen to their concerns as well as their ideas

You can think of many more examples from your own life.

Whichever example you consider, it is important to understand

that just as leadership is a reflection of earned authority, leadership

presence, which enhances the leadership moment, is derived

from the support of others. It cannot be assumed through birth or

heritage, though many kings and queens have acted as if they have

it and don’t. Leadership presence is a form of communication and

as such can be taught and put into practice.

Some of us have presence; others must develop it.

Watch how leaders we admire carry themselves. See how they

enter a room and engage other people. Look at how they interact

with others, both above and below them in rank and authority.

Watch how they build coalitions and are able to get things done.

Often such leaders are the ones who tackle the impossible tasks

and somehow get them done. How? It is because they have created

a strong team of people who believe in themselves and their

mission and will do whatever it takes to get things done right.

Leadership presence, the power to lead, does not come automatically

with rank. While many CEOs and generals may hold

heavy titles and their presence may seem lofty, the proof of their

leadership is in what they accomplish. People get put into high

positions and often don’t succeed, a phenomenon documented by

Dr. Laurence J. Peter in his 1969 book The Peter Principle.1 Such

failures often stem from a lack of leadership presence. These managers

fail to build rapport with their people. They assume it is “my

way or the highway” and do not accept the counsel or opinions of


One of the clearest indicators of leadership presence is the

silence that occurs between leader and follower. No pomp. No circumstance.

Just being there. This leadership presence occurs on

the factory floor when a new hire is schooled by a veteran. You

find it on the battlefield in the quiet moments between officers and

their troops. And you find it in boardrooms when the CEO has

the support of her team. No words are spoken. There is a quiet

sense of trust that has developed among all parties.

But here’s the key point. While trust is a reciprocal act

between leader and follower, it starts with the leader. He must

trust his followers by giving them a stake in the enterprise as decision

makers and contributors. Followers repay that trust by

demonstrating their faith in the leader. That trust contributes to

leadership presence in its most pure form and it is something to

which all leaders can aspire.

Leadership presence is a powerful attribute of a leader; it

amplifies and strengthens a leader’s ability to connect with people

he or she must lead.2

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