Leading with Presence

August 10, 2017


If you are a leader, becoming a master of yourself is crucial. You have the unique ability to make an extraordinary impact on the lives of many, which should be deeply appreciated. Your presence is your unique signature and nurturing it will grow your capacity and improve the outcomes you can achieve.


Signature Presence is a term coined by author Mary Beth O’Neill who describes it as having ‘backbone and heart’, attributes essential for leaders. In essence it is about being authentic and knowing at a deep level what you bring to any given situation. It is what differentiates you from your peers, your sweet spot, where you do your best work. So let’s take a look at how you can identify, articulate and develop your signature presence.


1. Purpose. It starts with why. Accepting that choice is why you are where you are and understanding why you make key decisions will help you to connect with your purpose. It is what drives you and what you will make sacrifices for, a combination of the fundamental things that are important to you. While leadership is personal, it is carried out in relationship with others. Your purpose is bigger than you and talks to the impact you want to have. How will the world be a little better because of you being here? Consider your personal history (family, friends, where you have lived), your interests and passions, what you believe and the choices you have made and then think about what you want your legacy to be. Brainstorm some key works and try articulating your purpose in a sentence. Check how the words resonate with you. Often it will start with "I believe ..."


2. Intent. Now that you know your purpose how will you go about living it? In this instance intent refers to your behaviour and decisions. It is the choices you make each and every day. Are they deliberate? Are they aligned with your purpose? What message do they send to those you work with? Your behaviours and decisions convey your intent. Think back over the past week or month, what would those you work with say your intent was? Is it what you would hope? Be clear on this because it is how you show up to others.


3. Toolkit. What are your unique skills, capabilities and talents? What’s in your toolkit, what works well for you and what doesn’t? As a leader, it is your responsibility to understand the theories, models, frameworks and practices you will learn, utilise and grow. Similarly, you should make conscious choices about those things you decide not to add to your toolkit and why. Make it a regular practice to do a stocktake of what is in your toolkit and ask yourself these questions.


  1. Do each of the things serve me?

  2. How do they serve those I work with?

  3. Do any of them need attention and development?

  4. Is there anything in there that I should let go of?

  5. Where are my gaps and how will I fill them?

  6. Am I clear when to use different items and how they will support those I work with? Do I know when not to use them?


4. Refinement. Being a leader comes with a commitment for consistent and regular reflection and refinement. Revisiting our purpose, intent and toolkit and being aware at all times of the impact we are having on others and ourselves. Refinement can assist us to develop self-mastery, the ability to be aware of and manage, our internal thoughts, emotions, behaviours, habits and feelings to make conscious choices and hold our course even when things get tough.










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