Cultivating is essential to successful business operations and navigating increasingly demanding customer expectations. When you have a deeper presence as a leader, you will be able to stay centred when facing unanticipated interruptions and be ready to explore new paths and build trusting relationships. It’s human nature to follow leaders. When leaders are confident and sure of who they are, what really matters to them, and what they stand for, they are likely to scale newer heights and take others with them.
Cultivating leadership presence is also closely tied to values. And trust should be one of the highest values to focus upon. If it isn’t, everyone will walk out – right from your employees and investors to your customers and more. And you will experience this happening more and more, every single day.
By deepening your presence as a leader, you can significantly bring down the risk of ‘acting out.’ As a leader, you should refrain from humiliating or yelling at others. If you do, it will harm relationships. The post-event effects of such acts could trigger either feeling of embarrassment or, at the other extreme, obstinacy that you were right. These would mean strained relationships, wasted energy, and lost potential.
Ways to Cultivate Leadership Presence
There are various ways to do it. Let’s focus on how you can be more present before, during, and after a meeting.
Before a meeting
Whether it’s an in-person or online meeting, give yourself a few minutes to become present. Find a quiet corner where you can sit or stand in a relaxed manner, close your eyes, and do a body scan to notice what emotions are rising in you. Look specifically if you can sense any signs of stress. If you do, practice deep breathing for a few seconds to let go of any tension.
If you don’t need your phone for the meeting, put it away to avoid calls or messages distracting you from the topics under discussion. Not glancing at your phone every few seconds will make people attending the meeting feel more valued as they won’t need to compete for your attention.
During a meeting
You should remain grounded and in touch with your body and emotions while interacting with others. Keep your spine upright and your feet rooted to the ground while sitting on the chair. Maintain a normal pace of breathing in and out. You could position your hand lightly on your stomach to stay linked to what we call “belly breath” and your sense of self. If you feel you have lost focus, bring it back to your breathing to refocus.
For in-person meetings, maintain eye contact when another individual is speaking. For online meetings, move your eyes between looking directly at the camera (to make the speakers feel you’re looking at them directly) and looking at their onscreen image. Such conscious ‘shuttling’ will hold your attention and prevent your mind from wandering. It will also make others feel they have got your full attention.
If you can’t give your undivided attention to the meeting, its topics, and the speakers, it’s best to attend whatever is a more pressing matter and return to the meeting later instead of being absent-minded or attending in a semi-distracted state.
After a meeting
Rushing from one meeting to the next creates an “attention residue” in your mind. This happens when you keep thinking about an issue discussed in the previous meeting when you should really be ready to attend and focus on the next meeting. To avoid attention residue, you should give yourself a few minutes break after a meeting ends and before you attend the next. This way, you can clear your mind and be present wholly for the next meeting.
As your meeting is winding down, you should note the decisions or actions that were taken. This will ensure your mind doesn’t have them as ‘open loops’ as they could otherwise gobble up a disproportionate level of energy. Ideally, you should close ‘loops’ from a meeting before heading to or logging into the subsequent one.
Being fully present helps you notice opportunities and spot risks that you would have missed if you were there while being distracted. With your absolute state of presence, you will be receptive to ‘action impulses’ and fresh insights that could take you forward.
Though our presence is quite simple, it’s rare too. That’s why great leaders cultivate deep and total presence, be it in person or online. You too can do it to significantly boost your leadership quality and even the quality of your life.