Money and good looks — fame and fortune — are always good to have, but when it comes to leadership substance and presence are the real keys to success. Both matter, both count, and both are needed if you want to maximize your ability to connect, influence, affect, and lead others.
There are countless examples of people who are smart but lack presence and therefore are often ignored. Likewise, there are those who have great style and presence but because they lack substance seldom get traction.
You need both to be success. Let’s take a closer look at these important leadership skills.
What is Leadership Presence?
Presence—or what’s also referred to as gravitas—is best described as how you “show up” and what others sense and experience when they’re around you. It’s defined by a multitude of personal attributes and behaviors (and interpersonal skills) including your demeanor, your level of self-confidence, communication skills, how you relate to situations and to people in any given moment, and much more.
Some might think that in this “anything goes” culture “presence” is less important or is a form of snobbery. This is not the case. Presence should never be confused with pretention—a person so involved with external clues to make them seem superior to others, that they miss sending clues that say what’s really important – things like:
- I want to talk to you.
- I want to get to know you. Or
- I care that I am talking with you in ways you can understand and hear.
Working on your presence—how you relate to others, and how others react to you—is vitally important to your leadership development. But if you don’t sound like you know what you are talking about, having presence may be offset by your lack of substance—or not valued at all.
You must also have real substance.
Presence may unlock a door but keeping it open requires real substance. Continuous learning in your field—understanding the value of gained experience, really making good decisions, following through to achieve good outcomes, and READING— not just skimming—the key literature in an area—all make a difference in your ability to offer great advice, influence others, take action, and be a great leader.
A reputation for having substance is earned. You cannot buy substance or skip steps to get the experience that practice and time make possible. Having substance starts with knowing the basics of your field, and then having worked in an area long enough and seen enough success—and failure too—that you can actually be someone who is known to have trusted knowledge and experience about one or more specific areas of competence.
A single success in one area or endeavor does not prove substance. Likewise, one failure does not preclude someone from being considered to have substance. What defines a person as having substance is the ability to demonstrate an ongoing track record of success by combining a number of key factors, among them:
- know how,
- sound decision making, and
- positive outcomes.
These and similar factors individually and collectively go a long way in determining whether you are a person of substance or not.
Developing Presence & Substance: Where to Start
Common sense may tell that you need to work on both at the same time, but that’s not the case. It’s really not a tough call.
Start with substance. Once you do and acquire real knowledge and experience you’ll make an important discovery—that your presence or gravitas will likely have developed as you’ve acquired real substance. And with both who knows, fame and fortune may follow.
Once you’ve acquired substance, here are some additional tips for gaining some additional Gravitas!
Gravitas “Clue” List
This list may not be comprehensive; it’s simply meant to suggest some of the things people use to make judgments about gravitas. But at least you won’t be “Clue List” when it comes to your Gravitas!
Clothing and personal appearance—including cleanliness, neatness, and style. Does the person’s appearance inspire some confidence in their views?
Pace and tone. Is it easy to listen to this person and does he or she sound convincing? Professional? Clearly understandable? Authentic?
Involves self-awareness of one’s own emotions, how you express them, how they impact others, as well as having a good sense of empathy for the emotions and point of view of others.
Does the person seem comfortable in his or her own skin? Does the person seem natural and comfortable with what he or she is saying? Do they make eye contact when speaking?
Does the person make it clear by their presence that they respect themselves and others? What non-verbal cues (i.e. body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, etc.) may they be sending that contribute to how they perceive themselves, others, and the world around them.
You don’t need to be an executive (i.e. hold a leadership position) to have an executive presence in this way. Does the person have command of the facts and an organized way to present them? Does the person provide examples and experiences that help make the point?