The leadership language (I)

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Whenever I have the opportunity to attend or participate in a conference where a wide range of leaders are present, I always expect certain key topics and activities. Most of the time my expectations are met and I walk away with a nugget or an affirmation for direction. But one thing that I expect which is usually missing is the delivery of guidance or training around “The Power of Presence”.

In a survey of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) conducted by Gartner, it was second on the list of the top 20 leadership traits that make a difference. By comparison, technology skills ranked 12th.

As a Certified High Performance Coach, Image and Personal Brand Consultant, who works with a wide variety of professionals, I have come to realize a few things that I have outlined below.

Whilst “Presence” is seen as an inherent or a cultural home grown skill, many leaders don’t have it! And at a critical time where the global environment is becoming saturated with a range of industry innovations and unique competitive techniques, the need to be “outstanding” has taken on a new meaning.

Executive Presence has been researched quite a bit in recent years but there is one underlying agreement amongst all researchers; its potential and depth cannot be limited in scope to date.

Many definitions have been given about Executive Presence and here are a couple:

“Executive presence is a blending of temperament, competencies and skills that when combined, send all the right signals. Leaders know they must embody executive presence to get ahead, influence others, and drive results. Leadership development professionals know they must help their executives develop it.” – Suzanne Bates, Bates Communications.

“It is executive presence—and no man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant following without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us we’re in the presence of someone who’s the real deal. It’s an amalgam of qualities that telegraphs that you are in charge or deserve to be.” ― Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Author of Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success.

According to a new study by the Centre of Innovation, a non-profit research organization in New York, being perceived as leadership material is essential to being promoted into leadership positions. In fact, the 268 senior executives surveyed said “executive presence” counts for 26percent of what it takes to get promoted.

Communications expert Karen Friedman says oftentimes people who exhibit executive presence exude a “wow factor,” or magnetism, and are able to easily influence others. They often speak up, use strong and clear language, communicate with passion and energy, and display positive body language by standing tall, making eye contact, offering a firm handshake and using an authoritative tone of voice.

Moreover, nearly 60percent of the executives surveyed said sounding uneducated negatively impacts the way others perceive you.

The Executive Presence Model: it has 16 behaviors that fall into five categories

Clearly, this is the Lost Leadership Language!  This is the wow factor! This connects the dots for many leaders who desire to be relevant. It’s amazing how many of us, especially in Africa and the diaspora still take this for granted. Even more interesting is the fact that this can be learned through training!

A story published Zameena Mejia records a conversation with Black, founder of communications consulting firm Black Sheep, who tells CNBC that leaders need to be solid speakers day in and day out — not just when they have to go onstage for big presentations.

Whether you are in front of one person or a room full of dozens or hundreds of people, Black says you have to be an engaging storyteller. In the workplace, one should be “able to communicate the vision of the company in very simple ways, without a lot of company jargon,” he adds.

Strong communicators can also tell profound stories and make themselves vulnerable, which allows others to more easily establish a personal connection. This will make employees want to follow your lead and give their best every day when going to work, Black says.

A leader at any level in an organization can have the highest level of technical skills but without the ability to communicate that knowledge and passion across to influence others, one simply can not get ahead!

Although executive presence is highly intuitive and difficult to pin down, it ultimately boils down to your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team.

Aside from being an extraordinary communicator, there are a number of other social skills one must develop to have the executive language.

Connection with your audience is inevitable.  It’s critical to engage others when communicating and make them feel comfortable. The best way to connect is to understand your communication style challenges, how to overcome them and how to read and adapt to the style of others.

People who embody executive presence have the ability to draw others to them. This is often achieved through strong listening skills and an ability to stay “in the moment.” As a result, the people with whom you are communicating know that you are solely focused on them, and not distracted by the many other things you could be doing at that moment. And of course, you must look the part.

Choose your wardrobe and accessories carefully. Not only is your content important, but also the language you choose to deliver it will impact your credibility. Filler language, such as “um,” “uh,” and “so” immediately detracts from presence. As do minimizers like “just,” “sort of,” and “this may not be a good idea but…” When someone with strong presence speaks, others take note and there is no doubt of the conviction behind their words.

It’s time for all individuals who are, have been selected or are growing into leadership, to start the active search for the leadership language through requesting for in House Training & Development programs, Personal Grooming and Image Training events, Webinars on the topic and many more capacity building programs.

The process is simple; in my H.E.L.P Coaching model, it falls into the Define Refine and Shine category.

In Part II of this article I will elaborate on a few steps to take.

In the meantime, the most important thing to do is to start the journey to the search! The leadership language may be lost, but choose to look at it this way, now we have the opportunity to search for it and find it! It will open all access doors to become the best we can be!

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