SIX POSITIONS OF POWER AND INFLUENCE
So, you have an important meeting or event on your calendar.
If you are like most of us, you will spend time thinking about what you will say and maybe what you will wear. You note the location of the event and maybe check out the attendees.
But, do you think about who you will BE? Do you consider the mood you want to convey and the image you want to project? Do you think about your attitude and body language, or if you are in a leadership role, your executive presence?
Leaders who assume a presence appropriate to the situation are more effective. Sometimes, they need to show power. Other times they need to show decisiveness, approachability or flexibility. Their goal is to inspire trust, commitment and higher performance. Often, their physical presence is the key.
They show each of those attitudes with a different body disposition. They project a different energy.
Most of the information you will find about Executive Presence focuses on traits from the perspective of how leaders are perceived…the result of what they do. For example, you will see that leaders must project authenticity, confidence, humility or inclusiveness.
However, little information is offered that gives you specifics about the physical positions and attitudes that most effectively demonstrate these characteristics, what to do with body, attitude, emotion and language to bring about these perceptions. That is the purpose of this Toolkit and much of our work at Leadership Options.
This page guides you through the body dispositions called Six Positions of Power and Influence that are critical to leaders who want to project a full range of leadership skills. You will find examples of each of these Six Positions and links to opportunities for practice and other resources.
For greater understanding, some of the information below repeats content found in other areas of the Toolkit. If you have not already done so, I suggest that you begin with the Executive Presence Portal. That page examines executive presence, why it is important, and the cultural, social and individual differences in body language. It makes this information more meaningful.
Once you review and understand the Six Positions, you may want to use the Quick Guide to help you remember how to embody them. The best introduction is a workshop setting where you can discuss and practice with a group. Working with musical selections is fun and useful. However, this Toolkit is much quicker and much less expensive. (We are available for workshops if you have a group that is interested.)
So, now we will look at the Six Positions of Power and Influence, the different body dispositions leaders use to convey a sense of purpose, to inspire commitment and to make genuine connections that change the future.
The Six Positions of Power and Influence for Executive Presence are Stability, Resolution, Connection, Flexibility, Nurturing and Centering (Mindfulness). Each of them is important to effective body language, and each use depends on choosing the appropriate physical and emotional presence for any situation.
I have included below articles that describe each physical presence and on this page you will find suggestions for practicing each of these positions. Let’s take them one at a time:
Mindfulness—I begin with being centered because that is the presence required to assume the other five positions. Mindfulness transcends all the others. Mindfulness is the capacity to manage awareness and attention in the moment.
In my book, Connect, I offer two definitions of the word presence: “(1) being in the place and in the moment (being present), and (2) how other people perceive an individual (a powerful presence). The first meaning relates to being in a location both mentally and physically, which is required for leaders to connect with other people. The second meaning is the bearing or carriage that shows poise, confidence or distinction.”
Being mindful and centered allows a leader to be more authentic and more productive. It increase focus, creativity, intuition and clarity. It reduces thought patterns that lead to fragmentation and stress. In addition, mindfulness increases one's ability to genuinely connect with other people.
My article on Mindful Leadership examines the benefits of mindfulness, why leaders need to be mindful, and how to practice mindfulness. Please click on that link to learn more about Mindful Leadership.
Stability – The Presence of Stability is probably the physical presence most often associated with strong and powerful leaders. If you take on this presence in a store and remain in one spot for very long, someone will invariably approach you to ask for information.
In the body of Stability, you are protective…with your head up and your shoulders back. You may take a slightly regal pose. You are not so much interacting with other people as you are physically showing that you are in control of the situation.
Your energy is focused out from your body and around you. Your eyes are completely aware and possibly looking in the distance as if surveying your realm.
You are obviously in charge, and others feel safe. I use the image and example of Maggie Thatcher to demonstrate this physical presence, but in the article, How to Show Powerful Leadership Presence, I also show how Ronald Reagan, who was beloved by many, embodied the Presence of Stability. I do not know if he naturally adopted this presence or if his acting career allowed him to take on this physical presence as needed. However, it served him very well.
RESOLUTION: In a body of Resolution, you are intent on reaching a conclusion and finding a viable solution. You are totally focused on the people who will help to solve the problem and objects that represent the issue.
Your energy is directed forward. Your voice is powerful. Your eyes are narrowed and focused on a mission.
People around you sense an urgency to find solutions. You interact with others, but they quickly become aware that your intention is resolving whatever problem is at hand. There may be little small talk.
As with the Presence of Stability, you are in control of the situation, but in the Presence of Resolution, your physical presence and energy are very different. The article, Leadership Presence that Shows Determination, explains this presence more fully and provides practice information.
Resolution and Stability are the two Positions of Power and Influence that leaders often feel most comfortable assuming, and they are the body dispositions that most quickly identify leaders to followers and colleagues. However, the following positions are important to learn and to use.
Leaders don’t just make decisions and solve problems. They also need to generate commitment and inspire passion in others. Leaders who can make these emotional connections are more effective as they work to make a difference. I describe this aspect of leadership in an article explaining the phenomenon of Affective Leadership℠.
The Presence of Connection most directly builds and strengthens affiliation. It shows genuine feelings and allows relationships to flourish.
The eyes and face of Connection are soft and fully aware of other people. The smile is genuine and inviting; the body is relaxed. The voice is soft.
The energy of the Presence of Connection extends outward to include other people into your space. Humility and vulnerability may be apparent as you practice this body disposition.
In the article linked above, we consider famous people such as George Clooney, John Travolta, Princess Diana and Bill Clinton, each of whom demonstrates this presence very effectively.
FLEXIBILITY - A second physical and emotional connection that may be more difficult for leaders to embody is the Presence of Flexibility. Frequently, they are very comfortable with postures of authority, but the “softer” poses are more complicated and require more practice.
The Presence of Flexibility opens doors to interaction and greater creativity. It invites people to share ideas and explore all kinds of possibilities. It allows the leader to have fun and share thoughts and ideas.
In the Presence of Flexibility, the leader displays a sense of wonder and openness. Looking up and around in anticipation, the leader shows that he is willing to learn from and share with others. Eyes are wide and energy goes out and returns with new thoughts and new possibilities. An eager smile and possibly a twinkle in the eye are part of this physical presence.
The article linked above describes the Presence of Flexibility and offers suggestions for practice.
NURTURING—Few people who discuss leadership begin with the important component of nurturing. However, that is often the role truly effective leaders assume.
Effective leaders want to build a legacy. They want others to thrive. They genuinely care about people with whom they work.
Those sentiments require them to change their more powerful bodies to a more receptive presence, the Presence of Nurturing.
The Nurturing body disposition is fully centered and completely focused on the people we want to support and lead. The body leans slightly forward and conveys an attitude of concern and protectiveness. Hands may reach out to touch the person who is speaking. The eyes are attentive and the voice is soft and caring. This body disposition may suggest wisdom.
Affective Leaders coach, mentor, support and assist others. They develop genuine emotional connections. Not only do followers need to see and sense this desire and presence in leaders, but leaders need to experience connection that provides them with a much-needed sense of purpose and accomplishment. Nurturing simply makes Affective Leaders feel good. The link above describes this presence more fully and provides practice tips.
EXTREMES OF LEADERSHIP
It is important to remember that in addition to helping leaders make connections and achieve their goals, overuse or underuse of these Six Positions of Power and Influence can significantly reduce a leader's effectiveness. For example, overuse of the body of Stability can make a leader appear tyrannical or power hungry. Under-use of that emotional and physical presence can cause a leader to appear indecisive or fearful. Learn more about Executive Presence in the Extremes in this article.
FAKE TILL YOU BECOME IT
If you have not already done so, look at Amy Cuddy's exceptional TedTalk Body Language Shapes Who You Are. It gives some valuable information about body dispositions that get results. She and her colleagues conducted the research indicating that changing your body changes your levels of testosterone and cortisol, the hormones that affect assertiveness and stress re-activeness. She discusses the implications for job interviews and other life outcomes as she talks about her personal story feeling that she was an impostor until she used this information to become who she wanted to be.
In addition, you may want to take a look at the Quick Guide to the Six Positions of Power and Influence. As you practice, you may want to work with a coach or colleague to use the Executive Presence Observation Tool based on the Bates Model of EP or the Observation Tool based on the Center for Talent Innovation results to consider your goals for executive presence and to assess your performance. Both can be used for observation or self-assessment.
As a member of this community of leaders, you may download these files for your own use. If you are an Executive Presence Badge Holder, you are granted permission to use and distribute this document for commercial purposes with attribution under Creative Commons licensing.
- Group image: iStock_00001601987
- Mindfulness: Seated Buddha Amitabha statue in the public domain, Wikimedia
- Margaret Thatcher: provided by Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, Wikipedia
- Resolution: By Mark Foley (Florida House of Representatives) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- George Clooney: George Clooney, The Men Who Stare at Goats TIFF09, Wikipedia,
- Flexibility: Sebastiaan ter Burg via Compfight cc 31013861@N00/2380578623
- Nurturing: Official GDC Attendee Conversation via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/officialgdc/5058378176/