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Demystifying Leadership Presence:

Leadership Presence can be difficult to define. It can seem to belong more to the realm of art than science. We clearly know it when it we experience it and yet when asked to describe it, the language used seems inextricable from the person we are describing:

“it seems authentic to them, almost hewn into their character,”,

“it is in their words and in their deeds,”

“it is in the way they make us feel,”

“they seem to embody it”.

This inevitably leads us into a territory of a mysterious “itness” of it all and even though we can isolate some of its qualities and outcomes, the tough notion that maybe you either have “it”, or you don’t have “it”, is always lurking.

Patsy Rodenburg is considered one of the world’s greatest voice, speech and presence coaches. She has spent the last 40 years proving this notion wrong, relentlessly researching and developing the most effective and practical work to bring us to our physical, vocal, emotional and intellectual presence.

Her clients include the who’s who of the theatre, the film and TV world, translating this work into a gold standard for leadership development in the business world. For full disclosure, I have studied and work with Patsy as one of her certified Registered Rodenburg Teachers.

Her observations have led her to a description presence she calls Three Circles of Energy™.

Presence is an energy. It is in our bodies, our breath, our voice, our speech, our attention, the connection we make with others and how we perceive and use our power.

We can move through the circles many times in a day, but we tend to habitually meet the world in one of them, particularly when asked to step forward and lead. None of them make us bad people but they do diminish our authority to lead.

These unhelpful habits impact our ability to communicate effectively, to be curious and available, to listen and have self-awareness, to inspire and move. They also have an immediate effect on our bio chemistry and the optimal performance of the hemispheres of the brain, more about that in a subsequent article.

I have not put any varnish on the descriptions of the habits, as we must know and name our enemies However, the good news is when we become aware of a habit it is potentially the end the habit. I believe that a state of full presence is natural to us indeed our birth right. We are all born fully present and this is hardwired into us and will show up at moments of heightened curiosity, unabashed passion or if we need to call upon our survival energy.

Have a look at the descriptions below and see if you recognise yourself in any of them with the knowledge that with some work, these often old and ingrained habits can be overcome by making small changes in your day. The truth is that your full, natural and powerful presence is waiting for you and ready to be activated underneath the superficial veil of learned habits.

First Circle:

First Circle leaders are often outstanding in their field as far as knowledge, strategy and technical ability goes. They are often fantastically interesting, but this is never shared with all around them. In first circle you take energy without giving it. Below are some of the habitual traits that can mask our greatness and diminish our authority to lead.

Physically: Slumped, broken or depressed posture. Shuffle, scuff while walking. Fidgeting while still. Head droop. Shoulders rounded, upper chest depressed, and spine collapsed. Feet together. Knees locked. Weight back on heels.

Breath: The breath is shallow, held when listening and laboured when under pressure

Voice: Not audible, strained or whispered, falling off in energy at the ends of phrases. It sounds monotone, pessimistic, tired or bored.

Speech: Unstructured, perhaps seems ill prepared, even when this is not the case. Over detailed. Sometimes misses the point when in meetings as over reflective. Seems like they are speaking to themselves.

Attention: You are unable to listen accurately as you are in a bubble of self-consciousness. The attention is internal, and the energy is reflective.

Connection: You break eye contact a lot, speaking to the floor or ceiling or some vague place as if speaking to yourself. You do not seem curious about the environment or the people around you.

Appearance: you appear hidden or absent, disinterested or bored, weak or unsure. It says: “I do not want to be here. I don’t believe what I am saying… I’m not interested in you… I don’t care about what I| am speaking about.”

Leadership style: Denial of having power to influence. Cannot create a safe environment for teams to thrive as no leadership offered.

Third Circle:

In third circle, we are giving a lot of energy out, but are not taking any in. It is a one-way street. We tend to speak at people, not to them and we don’t listen well as we lack curiosity. We are very certain of our point of view and can’t take criticism well. As a result of this we are not fully aware of ourselves, our surroundings or the subtle nuances of communication.

Physically: Chest lifted, and shoulders pulled back. Chin pulled up. Head thrust forward. Jaw clenched with anticipation. Feet too far apart. Walk too firm and noisy. Invade people’s space by not yielding. Third circle energy is a physical shield which desensitises one to others.

Breath: Sharp but shallow, often noisy intake of air

Voice: Pushed, forced and often too loud

Speech: Often jagged, spurts of sentences, overwhelming and inconsiderate, unstructured. Speak at you not to you. Enjoy the sound of their own voices.

Attention: Rarely listen well unless they are listening to themselves. Will stop listening once they know what they want to say. Often interrupts or shout down others. Shields, desensitised to others, lacks self-awareness and curiosity about others.

Appearance: It may appear as energised and confident, often quite arrogant, mocking and aggressive. Overwhelming and intimidating.

Leadership style: Command and control, force, sometimes bullying. Rarely inspires and moves people. Fosters an environment of mistrust and cynicism, where louder and more aggressive individuals thrive but unsafe for everyone else.

Second Circle:

Physically: Energized, yet open. The body is relaxed yet in a state of readiness. Knees relaxed. Feet grounded but energy forward on ball of foot back. Feet hip width apart. Head sitting on shoulders. Walk has a natural swing, connected and energised but not loud or scuffed.

Breath: Deep in the body, relaxed and measured. Fuels their speaking and their listening.

Voice: Open, clear, expressive and resonant. Powerful without being loud or forced.

Speech: You will feel spoken “to” not “at”. They are clear, energetic and passionate and it seems effortless. They tend to mean what they say as they are saying it. They structure their thoughts organically and seek to bring us along with them. They are listening while they are speaking.

Attention: The second circle leader has their energy focused on you and fixed pints outside themselves. The energy is a returning energy, they are sending and receiving energy. They are curious about people and environment.

Appearance: They seem authentic and you see their humanity. They seem to embody authority and gravitas naturally. They are approachable and formidable.

Leadership Style: They use their power well, fostering equality, presence and engagement by inspiring and moving people to bring their higher selves to the game. They create a safe environment that calls out bad practices immediately and raises the benchmark of communication to one of effective, efficient and humanity driven reason.

Thank you for taking the time and giving your presence to this longer article.If you would like to learn more about Second Circle Presence ™ Patsy Rodenburg’s bestselling titles Presence, Power Presentations and the Right to Speak are available in hard copy and in eBooks.

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