The Mystery & Gift of Presence (Part 1)

Photo by Nandhu Kumar from Pexels

Long ago, when we were working in places known as offices, there was a mentor’s office I could pop into at any time. Her presence would evoke a sense of calm for me (much like the photo above). Sometimes I shared what was on my mind while other times the exchanges were non verbal. She’d detect the frustration in my eyes and offer an encouraging smile. Then I’d exhale and keep moving with a sense of peace. I miss face to face (face to presence?) interactions like this and I’m sure I’m not alone. More and more, especially in a virtual setting, I realize presence matters.

Leadership presence is a significant piece of the leadership development puzzle yet often hard to understand and define. What is presence exactly? Is it attitude? Tone of voice? Maybe and sometimes. Presence is about how we present who we are and the impressions we leave (intended and unintended). Does our presence generate calm? Anxiety? Creativity? Is our presence commanding? Presence impacts how people respond to our leadership. An emotionally intelligent leader would do well to take some time to notice and reflect on their presence. Presence can be a gift or a burden to the people we work with and for. I’m going to do some further exploration next week, but in the meantime…

Think of someone whose presence inspires you to lean into the best version of yourself. How would you describe their presence?

Presence is less about what we say and more about what is said for and through us when we show up in a room. What is the presence effect you hope to have through your leadership?

The next time you’re in a meeting (online or in-person), see if you notice when or if anyone’s presence impacts the tone of the meeting.