Leadership Presence: Are you getting in your own way?

The struggle

Do you feel like you are ignored and overlooked at work considering all the effort you put in?

In a team meeting, even after you have said what you needed to get across, you feel you may as well have not been there?

You can’t help but notice that your suggestions get disregarded and yet when another team member offers the same input – good heavens!  Not only do they get acknowledged greatly but their idea also gets accepted.

Not surprisingly, you find yourself perplexed – scratching your head, wondering what happened and what it is that you are missing?

This has certainly been the experience of a few of my clients who have wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on.

If wanting ‘greater presence’ is something you would like, then read on!

What is Presence?

The Oxford Dictionary defines Presence as  “the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present.” In the business arena, we also hear the word linked with leadership, influence and executive or personal presence.

We know what presence is when we walk into a room and immediately notice someone who has this in bucket loads and this even before they open their mouths.

And how much more powerful their presence gets felt when their message and its delivery,  their non-verbals like how they hold themselves and the way they communicate all coalesce into a bulls eye potency.

So what can you do to have greater presence? 

How can you get your full dues for the vital contribution you make?

There are some key things you could focus on to grow your presence including having a better grip on how you communicate including the tone of your voice, the non-verbal messages you give out, the clarity of your message, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, your value add and understanding other contextual factors like who your stakeholders are and how best to influence them.

In this article, I would like to suggest that to have greater presence begin with yourself.

Do a self-assessment first

To increase your awareness, notice what you are:

  • Saying (how and what you say and where)
  • Doing (how you behave – including your non- verbal behaviour)
  • Being (what you believe deep down)

Check that you are not being your own silent saboteur!

Notice that you are not signaling a message – perhaps unconsciously –  that is inviting people to respond in a way that is discounting of you.

Our conditioned past is our handbrake

 Whatever it is that you are doing  – be it speaking softly or tentatively, saying everything in the form of a question and giving the impression that you are not sure of what you are saying, there is a reason you would be doing this.

A good place to start is to tune in to you story. In other words, what is the story you are telling yourself as you show up in places where you want to have greater presence?

For example, are you afraid that your ideas and suggestions may not be good enough and therefore you cover yourself by asking everything as a question?

Or in a team meeting is your story something along the lines of,   “I don’t have all the data just yet so I will sit back, observe and hear everyone else’s input before I say anything.”

Or rushing through your delivery because you are so conscious that the other party e.g. your manger is super busy and their time important.  So you end up not doing justice to yourself or to your great idea/proposal.

Our stories drive us including what we allow ourselves to receive or not and the outcomes we get.   Perhaps you got conditioned into “not speaking” as when you did speak you were shot down and told, “you know nothing” as happened to one client.

So examine your underlying thoughts and beliefs.   Are these supporting or undermining your effectiveness and impact?

Growing your presence exercise:

Context: Identify the context you would like to have greater presence e.g. small team meetings, larger groups, when presenting or elsewhere

Current story: What is your dominant story about yourself regarding your leadership and presence.  For example, “Because of ‘X’ people don’t notice me.” Or “I don’t want to be criticised  so I will be tentative in how I say things.”

Idealized vision: Ask yourself. “What does your vision or idealized self with greater presence look, sound and feel like?” Describe your behavior including your communication and verbal and non-verbal demeanour

New story: What could be a new, more empowering story?

Developing your new story

Brainstorm solutions for your new story.

The question you could answer is,  “What and how do I need to show up differently on these three facets?”

Saying – expression

Doing – behaving (Non-verbals too)

Being – beliefs


This is where feedback (or Feedforward) comes in super handy.

You could identify 3 -5 trusted others in your team and get some feed forward with the inquiring question, “ I am working on having greater presence in team meetings. Knowing me as well as you do, what is one thing I could do (or not do!)  that could help me?”

Remember to thank them for their contribution.  Then pick one feedback that you can implement (the easier one first) and do this consistently for at least a month.

Then focus on the other feedback and do the same.

Enjoy the learning and your greater presence!


Interested in ideas for developing your leadership? Download your brief leadership development action guide











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