Knowing how to align your physical body with your words and emotions in different situations helps you as a leader to navigate the roles you assume every day. Some situations call for openness to connection. Others call for lightness, nurturing or control.
The second position of power and influence I will discuss in this series is that of Resolution. Adopting and maintaining this physical presence demonstrates to other people a powerful commitment to finding solutions to problems. It also keeps you focused on achieving those goals.
Before explaining what it is and how to do it, let me give an example of what happened when this powerful presence was absent.
When I worked with principals as coordinator of leadership development, I received a call from the district supervisor of elementary education. He said one of the newer principals in the district was in danger of losing his position.
Teachers and parents at his school frequently complained to district officials that this principal was weak and unable to gain the trust and support of the teachers in his school.
According to the supervisor, his meetings with faculty members were often chaotic and rarely led to solutions or concrete action. Parents complained that he seemed unconcerned or distant.
The director gave two examples that led me to believe the problem was in part one of physical presence. The director said that during meetings in his office, this principal often leaned back in his chair and rested his feet on a lower desk drawer. In large-group meetings, he sat on a table or leaned against a cabinet or door frame. His voice did not show enthusiasm or conviction.
I knew this young principal slightly, and I believed he was concerned about doing a good job. I also believed he wanted the best for his teachers and students. However, he seemed unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to lead and succeed.
I would like to say that my excellent coaching turned things around and today he is one of the most successful principals in the district, but I cannot. When I offered coaching assistance, he refused my offer and, despite previous mediocre performance reviews, he did not want to believe that district officials were concerned about his performance. He was removed from his position at the end of that school year.
So, if I had worked with him, what would have been my focus?
I would have started by asking about his perceptions of the problem and asking him to realistically assess the complaints his director and others received. I would have sat in on meetings, and we would have developed a plan to deal with issues we identified.
Based on his Director’s comments, I would most likely have included steps to improve his physical presence, including what I call the six positions of power and influence. Learning and practicing the body dispositions of Resolution, described below, and Stability, previously described in detail, would have been significant goals in his coaching plan.
As a successful leader, you must often focus on a specific outcome or on finding solutions to problems. Successful outcomes require you to adopt the Presence of Resolution. In this body, you focus completely on the problem, on the people helping to solve it, and objects that represent the issues.
If you sometimes feel you are not being taken seriously enough or you have concerns about your executive presence, I urge you to practice the Presence of Resolution. With this physical presence, you signal courage and willingness to bring a conflict or project to a successful conclusion. The presence of Resolution represents that you are willing to fight for what you believe...
How do you practice the Physical Presence of Resolution?
When you adopt the Presence of Resolution, your energy radiates from the center of your body and projects forward. Your arms and elbows are tight against your sides with hands in front of your body and pointing forward. Even though you want to center your attention, your body may be more tense than at other times.
Your voice is powerful. Your eyes are narrowed and focused on your mission.
People around you sense an urgency to find solutions. You interact with others, but they quickly recognize your intention is to resolve whatever problem is at hand. There is little small talk.
In workshops with new and aspiring leaders, we practice walking around the room 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 as valuable.
PRACTICE: Think of a mission or goal—something you care deeply about accomplishing.
- Relax and center.
- Take a deep breath.
- Assume a confident and courageous 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.
- Plant your feet firmly on the ground.
- Assume a determined facial expression with jaws slightly tightened and lips pursed.
- Narrow your eyes slightly and focus on people or objects that represent the concern you identified.
- Project your energy forward.
- Think of a successful conclusion to your problem or concern.
- Speak powerfully and with conviction. Complete the following sentences in a strong voice: “We WILL succeed,” or “I will NOT allow . . . to happen.”
- Powerfully move about the room as you maintain this physical presence (Preferably move to music.)
- When you feel comfortable taking on this physical presence in private, choose an appropriate time to practice it with other people (when planning or problem-solving).
Resolution and Stability are the two Positions of Power and Influence that strong leaders often feel most comfortable assuming, and these two positions most quickly identify leaders to followers and colleagues.
On the other hand, people in leadership roles who do not demonstrate the necessary gravitas lose the power to lead and influence other people. They are simply not taken seriously.
Most people are comfortable with two or possibly three of the physical dispositions I will discuss, and they are less comfortable taking on the other significant roles. This is the reason practice is important. With practice, even leaders who have previously not been taken seriously take on a completely different persona.