As a leader at any level, one of the biggest challenges you face is to inspire and empower others. To make an impact and build trust.

Many leaders are struggling with their leadership presence. This is partly because presence is treated by many as a communication skill or in some cases, even worse, as a series of methods and tricks to help create a desired persona, without realizing that if you aren’t authentic, your message won’t be authentic either.

In 1992, psychologist William Kahn, studied psychological presence in the workplace and identified four critical dimensions. A person must be attentive, connected, integrated and focused. As he said, these dimensions collectively define what it means to be alive in the fullest sense and accessible in the work role. This is when you contribute ideas and effort, you’re open and empathetic and knowledgeable about your growth opportunities and continuous learning.

Being present is not just about yourself.

Your presence in life is how you make other people feel. It is the impact you’re making on their lives. When you become present you allow others to be present and this is how you build connections and trust. Trust is the conduit of influence and the only way to establish real trust is by being present.

Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful.

The state of presence allows us to be completely attuned to our most sincere selves. In this psychological state, our speech, facial expressions, postures and movements align. This is what makes us compelling. We are no longer fighting ourselves, instead we are being ourselves and this makes us able to communicate with passion and confidence.

Presence is power.

The good news is that we all have this tremendous power within us. No matter where we come from. No matter how fortunate or unfortunate we’ve been. No matter how well educated or not we are. You don’t need charm, charisma or to be an extrovert. All you need is a passion to make a positive difference for yourself and for others.

Why is it so difficult though to harness this power?

Why do so many people struggle with achieving presence and find it difficult to speak with confidence and stand out? There are many reasons for this, the most common one being a limited self-awareness. The first step in achieving presence is self-awareness and this is the part that the majority of people struggle with. Presence stems from believing and trusting your story, your feelings, your values and your abilities. It all starts with knowing yourself and being authentic. To put it simply, you can’t support a skill that you don’t have and similarly if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.

The moment you realize that you are completely accountable for your life, is the moment that you start harnessing this power.

No one else. Only you are responsible for your actions, decisions and the environment you create around you. Without truly knowing your strengths and the areas that you need to be developing, you will not be able to harness that power. True confidence comes from a real understanding and appreciation of our own selves and from a long term commitment to growth.

We all think we are self-aware, but many of us either punish ourselves for all the little things that we’ve done or haven’t done or over-celebrate our successes and treat our areas for improvement as not that important.

 “To love oneself,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “is the beginning of a life-long romance.” Love comes easy on sunny days, when our self-esteem stands tall and we’re proud of all our accomplishments. However, rainy days remind us of all our faults, igniting our internal monologue which is usually full of harsh critique and non-constructive thinking.

To truly know yourself is the first and most important step in achieving presence.

It takes time and effort and unfortunately is more often neglected than appreciated. Most of us don’t know what we’re capable for, we’re only assuming based on past experience and in many cases our own limiting beliefs. If you want to be present and make an impact, first start with understanding who you are and who you want to become.

People with strong presence think and act differently.

People with strong presence are not only very highly self-aware, but they think about others more than people with low presence. Recognizing how others feel is a primary concern for them. They also focus on what they can control instead of just being correct. Because of their high levels of self-awareness they are more capable to drive a clear vision and greater purpose. They know where they want to go, are realistic and can clearly identify the skills and resources they need to acquire in order to implement their purpose.

If you want to build your leadership presence, start spending some time with yourself.

Before you start working on your leadership presence, prepare to spend some time with yourself.  Self-reflect on how your day went (every day); what you did right and what you could have handled in a different way. Identify your strengths and the areas you need to develop. Imagine who you want to be in five, ten years from now – how does this better version of yourself look like and behave? Then treat presence as a self-development process. A process that will bring you closer to the better version of yourself and to nurturing your purpose.

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