The physical disposition a leader adopts when she wants to resolve a conflict or focus on completing a mission is very different than the body she assumes when greeting clients or new employees. Effective leaders unconsciously change their physical presence when taking on different roles, but failing to align the body with the situation can lead to unpleasant or undesirable results.
Notice the same man in the image to the right. His face, his body and his eyes generate a completely different impression. He is much more engaging and open to relationship. His eyes and his smile demonstrate a willingness to connect.
Compare the two images of this man with the young man resting on the briefcase below. Certainly, this appears to be an exaggerated pose, but if it were real, what would be the results of a meeting or a job interview?
These distinctions may be obvious to leaders who move seamlessly from one role to another. However, leaders who are unaware of their physical presence or who are unsure about different physical dispositions lose the opportunity to build connections with others and to accomplish their goals.
Leaders who do not demonstrate the necessary gravitas essentially lose the power to lead and influence other people. They are often not taken seriously.
Knowing how to use the physical body to align with ones own emotions and with different situations helps to navigate the roles leaders assume every day.
As mentioned previously, some situations call for openness to connection. Others call for lightness, nurturing or control. Most people are comfortable with two or possibly three physical dispositions, but they are less comfortable taking on the other significant roles.
When leaders focus on solutions to a problem or on a specific outcome, they adopt what I call the Presence of Resolution.
In the Presence of Resolution, the face shows purpose. Jaw muscles may tighten. Eyes are narrowed and focused as they look forcefully toward a successful outcome. The body appears strong as if prepared for battle —somewhat tense or rigid. The voice is strong and powerful.
Energy radiates from the center of the body and projects forward. Arms and elbows are often tight against the sides with hands in front of the body and pointing forward.
Courage and intense focus are evident. The physical presence of Resolution represents someone willing to fight for what she believes...
With this presence, a leader signals willingness and ability to bring a conflict or project to a successful conclusion. Without this physical presence, a leader is unable to deal effectively with difficult situations and effect the change or improvements he wants to see.
How does a Leader Practice the Physical Presence of Resolution?
In workshops with new and aspiring leaders, we practice this body disposition to powerful music such as "We Will Rock You" by Queen, the Edwin Starr song "War" or "Run the World (Girls)" by Beyoncé. It is much more fun to practice in a group, but independent practice is just a valuable.
If you sometimes feel you are not being taken seriously enough or you have concerns about your executive presence, practice the Presence of Resolution:
- Relax and center
- Take a deep breath
- Assume a confident attitude (attitude is essential to Executive Presence)
- Hold your elbows close to your body and your hands in front of you with fingers extended and forcefully pointing forward
- Assume a determined facial expression with jaws slightly tightened and lips pursed
- Narrow your eyes slightly and focus on people or objects that represent a concern you have identified
- Think of a successful conclusion to the concern
- Project your energy forward
- Speak powerfully and with conviction
- Powerfully move about the room as you maintain this physical presence
With practice, even leaders who have previously not been taken seriously take on a completely different persona.
This article is part of my series on Six Positions of Power and Influence. In this series I discuss the need for leaders to demonstrate appropriate presence for different situations. Those include Mindfulness (centering), Stability, Flexibility, Resolution, Connection and Nurturing.
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Content in this article was adapted from my book, Connect: Affective Leadership℠ for Effective Results. For information in much greater detail, please click on the link below.