Leadership Presence: Make an Emotional Impact

Leadership-Pesence-ImpactIf you’re thinking about how you can improve your leadership presence (including how well you’re perceived as a candidate for promotion), pay attention to your next presentation. You may need more than a good speech. You’ll need to make an emotional impact through voice and body language.

It’s nothing new: the most important factor in determining the impact of a leader’s message is body language and whether he/she looks confident, grounded and sure of themselves. Next is whether the leader’s tone of voice radiates clarity, energy and passion. The least important determinant of the impact of communication are the actual words spoken.

We know this. And yet, when it comes to making a presentation, most of us spend 99% of our time and effort crafting the words and only 1% on how we’re going to say them.

To review, Albert Mehrabian found that the words of a speech determine 7% of the speaker’s impact, voice accounts for 38% and body language for an astounding 55%. Why then do we spend so much effort over the words and almost none on the voice and body?

“Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal. Great leadership works through the emotions.” ~ Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee, Primal Leadership, Harvard Business Review Press, 2013

In other words, you need to pay much more attention to your insides rather than on external presentation skills per se. Because the bulk of what makes an impact with people comes from emotional thrust, i.e., your intention, your energy level, and how well you can connect and inspire others.

An audience is sensitive to how committed you are to what you say. They pick up on your mood and emotions. They get clues from your posture, your voice and facial expressions. Almost all of the clues they attune themselves to are perceived on a subconscious level. The way you move expresses anxiety or confidence or optimism or caution or concern – without you having to say a word.

So the question to ask yourself the next time you prepare a presentation is “Am I being 100% honest and authentically connecting with my inner emotions?” Because if you’re not – if you’re omitting or suppressing anything – it will show up somewhere in your physical presence. And your audience will sense something out of sync.

In my experience, most leaders have worked hard to hide feelings that might get in the way of confidence, power, and control. But your ability to show up as a good leader depends on authenticity. You can’t be authentic and build trust without admitting to some vulnerability.

I’m intrigued by the notion of leadership expressiveness especially as leaders try to show themselves as emotional human beings. For a long time now, we’ve had this misconception that leaders don’t show emotions because it undermines authority. It reveals weakness or implies a lack of control. For a man, it appears unmasculine. For a woman, it says they’re not tough enough.

This misconception that leaders shouldn’t show emotion makes them far less effective than they could be. But then, of course, the question becomes: “Just how emotionally expressive should a leader be?”

The role of emotional maturity in leadership is crucial. Success in life and leadership probably depends more on emotional skills than it does traditional IQ. Leaders are responsible for the energy level in their organization and with their people.

“Emotional leadership is the spark that ignites a company’s performance, creating a bonfire of success or a landscape of ashes.” Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, December, 2001

What do you think about this concept? How well are you connected to and expressive of your own emotions? I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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