Updated: May 16, 2021
Guest post from Sarah Rozenthuler:
In our rapidly changing world, new pressures are emerging. To navigate more demanding customer A, an acute distrust of business and so much remote working, leaders need to find new ways of operating. Cultivating leadership presence is foundational for this to happen. With deeper presence, a leader is able to remain centered when facing unexpected disruptions, be open to new directions and build trusting relationships. People follow people. Leaders who are grounded in who they are, what they stand for and what really matters take others with them. What leadership presence is When was a time that you became so immersed in what you were doing that you lost a sense of time? You might have been reading a novel, talking with a colleague or writing a report; any activity that requires focused concentration can take us there. Already you’ve had a taste of this capacity. When we operate from a sense of our presence, we are in a state of absorbed relaxation. There is a feeling of spaciousness or ‘flow’ inside us. Afterwards, when we look back, we realize that we’d been totally ‘there’ and in touch with our best self. When we are present, we are right here, right now. All our attention is focused in this moment. If we’re in a meeting, we’re attentive; we’re not thinking about our emails, ‘to do’ list or other distractions. We stay in contact with what’s happening in the room, as well as what’s going on inside us. We don’t try to control or manipulate others but allow them space to be themselves, just as we are being ourselves. Other people are attracted by this expansive energy and want to draw closer. Why developing presence matters There are several benefits to cultivating presence and building trusting relationships is chief among them. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, attributes the sustained success of the company to its operating principle of ‘values create value’. In an interview for Fortune, Benioff states: ‘If trust isn’t your highest value, the employees will walk out… Customers will walk out, investors will walk out and leaders will walk out, and you’re seeing more of that everyday.’ Deepening presence reduces the risk of ‘acting out.’ When a leader yells at others or humiliates them, it damages relationships. Retrenchment after the event can lead to feelings of shame or, at the other extreme, stubbornness that “I was right!” Wasted energy and lost potential are the result. Dealing with reactivity is key. Whilst lashing out at others provides a short-term release of pent-up energy, it pollutes the atmosphere. No one wants to work for a leader who ‘throws their toys out of the pram’ or withdraws into a sulky silence. When a button inside of us gets pushed, it’s an opportunity to pause, reflect and search inside ourselves so that the button loses its charge.