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Lalitha’s meeting with her new set of stakeholders ended badly.
She didn’t anticipate a coup d’état of sorts. She exited the room with all the poise she could gather and rushed to the adjacent library with tears threatening to tumble down. Seated inside the library, her colleague Rohit, graciously walked out to give her some space.
Later, Rohit suggested – ‘Lalitha, people can sense the fear in you. Probably that’s why they act smart. Why don’t you work on your leadership presence?
Lalitha adopted all the cues provided in self-help articles – talking confidently, choosing words wisely, avoiding unnecessary apologies, posturing, power dressing, and even standing while addressing an audience! Yet, stakeholders remained as belligerent as ever.
Were all those efforts a waste of time?
No. They are very important, for research has proved that women face greater hurdles in being accepted as leaders and certainly need to adopt every tool in their arsenal. But, Lalitha was probably jumping into cosmetic changes without strengthening the core of what needed repair.
What is the core of ‘leadership presence’?
It is the innate ability to assume a leadership role in the environment.
Leadership presence is the right mix of signals that entails commanding an audience, sharing views confidently and persuasively alongside engaging and hearing out what the stakeholders truly want.
As Lalitha did – talking confidently, using the right tone, and power dressing help command a leadership presence but, ‘only if’ paired with ‘behind-the-scenes’ work. It involves building credibility, ‘owning’ yourself, leveraging relationships, being solutions-focused, and understanding the larger picture.
The key to building leadership presence lies in focusing on the core rather than delving headlong into the cosmetic.
How can women build on their ‘core’ of leadership presence?
Hostile co-workers can vanquish you if they spot deficit domain knowledge. Use every tool in your arsenal to understand the domain and business well.
People tend to accept those whom they trust, don’t they? That makes networking all the more important.
Women are good at building relationships, but, low on leveraging them. After all, what is the use of having a great network useless you ask for favors and return them?
Can you see the larger picture well enough to offer broad-based solutions? To elevate the conversation, you should have insight into the big picture.
Own yourself! Get comfortable in celebrating wins big and small, to enable others to witness your success and power.
In the wider world of corporate work, leading people rarely happens in the first meeting inside a room.
Most of the meaningful action happens behind-the-scenes, through networking and understanding the nature of negotiations that will bear fruit. It is precisely why entering a room and expecting people to listen due to your title doesn’t cut ice.
It is in building credibility, networking, leveraging relationships, and, enabling others to see the power you wield, which will help you elevate the conversation and display leadership presence. Top it up with posturing and power dressing, and it makes you a force to reckon with!
Wondering where to begin this powerful transformational process? KelpHR also runs workshops on ‘aspirational leadership.’ Reach out to info@KelpHR.com to kick-start the journey of building your leadership presence.