What Really Is Leadership Presence?

Exodus 4:10 – Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

“Executive/Leadership Presence” has become and remained a buzz word in describing leadership attributes in others.  It frequently comes out of the mouth of leaders when assessing future leaders and/or identifying core characteristics of effective leaders.  However the concept is very nebulous to leaders when asked to define its components.  Often, employees are not prepared to focus on improving their executive/leadership presence when they receive the feedback due to the lack of understanding of its core meaning.  At times it becomes a scapegoat when a decision was made to not promote a person to a leadership / executive position (ie. “He does not have executive presence”).  Companies need to do a better job spending time educating leadership/employees on its meaning to appropriately develop the characteristic in individuals.   I have seen many times people think they exhibit executive presence by speaking up in meetings.  Executive/leadership presence is so much more.

In the church world, executive/leadership presence is often referred to as charisma.  When a pastor is chosen to lead a church, a key component involves assessing his/her ability to create followership in a particular environment.  But what does charisma and followership really mean when a person is assessed to lead a church?  Some individuals are chosen to be church leaders based on their ability to speak eloquently, convincing techniques (selling an idea/concept), outgoing personality, etc. Charisma and followership are so much more.

In the old testament of the Bible, Moses is portrayed as having the opposite of what many would think are components of executive/leadership presence.  His communications skills were poor; he admitted to God that he was a stutterer (as if God did not know this).  However, God used Moses to lead His people out of Egypt.  Moses had to exhibit leadership presence in releasing the children of Israel from Pharaoh’s control.  God taught Moses how to use his resources to display the elements of leadership to present freedom to the Israelites.  One of his resources was Joshua; he used Joshua to communicate at times the message of the Lord.

Executive/ leadership presence is much more than talking or speaking up in a meeting.  The true meaning of this concepts leverages communication artistically in a way that reaches to the psyche of a person and creates followership.   The following are characteristics of executive/leadership presence:

–          Social skills, grace, poise

–          Clarity; ability to explain the big picture

–          Self confidence, commands respect

–          Genuine, authentic, candid

–          Builds community and relationship by engaging others

–          Personal branding/presentation, professional attire

–          Active listening; listens with intent to understand

–          Passionate, inspirational

–          Executes strategy & vision; future oriented (does not dwell in present or past)

–          Effective speaking / presenting skills

–          Draws out alternative views from others, open, inquisitive (thought leadership)

–          Insightful, thoughtful

–          Humorous

–          Exemplifies values of organization

–          Courageous; willing to take risks

All of these attributes define executive/leadership presence in a comprehensive way that allows individuals to assess and develop an understanding of their strengths and developmental gaps in this area.  God did not care that Moses could not speak eloquently; speaking is just one component of executive/leadership presence.  God taught Moses how to develop and utilize all of the attributes above to be an effective leader.  How is God developing executive/leadership presence in your daily experiences?

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