As social animals making a positive impact on others and being able to effectively influence them is vital – we are all leaders. Managers of course are in positions of authority. However, in addition to their position they must possess personal impact and influencing skills to really be effective. This article introduces some of the most important factors in this area.
For thousands of years oration has been regarded as a key component in leadership. A leader needs to be able to make inspiring speeches, have the tact to say the right thing at the right time and to motivate and encourage others. There are many possible techniques to develop such skills from those used by the ancient Greeks to modern neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Cultural and sub-cultural factors are of course viral in this regard and what may have an impact on the shop-floor may have a very different impact in the boardroom.
Emotional intelligence, bought to prominence by Daniel Golemen, is the ability to recognise and manage one’s own and other’s emotions. Effective impact and influence is built on emotional self-awareness and regulation as well as empathy. It is not enough simply to be smart and the personal touch goes a long way. It is not the trick of remembering names that matters, so much as the care behind it.
If you have ever been around a great leader, whether that be a world-renown figure, or just a boss, community figure or parent you really admire, you will have experienced their embodied presence. What I mean by this is not some set of crass inauthentic Blairesque body-language techniques but how the person they are comes across in their posture and movement. When they enter a room, you know it, when they listen you feel heard, when they speak they command respect. Impact and influence is not just about what someone says or the position they hold, but their charisma, gravitas and presence. These “x-factors” are not magic and while some people may be naturals (this usually just means they have had a lot of practice) most of us can benefit from becoming aware of the basics of how leadership is embodied. Presence starts with being present, so mindfulness and body awareness is a good foundation for leadership and any embodied techniques one wishes to use.
Establish practices that build the way of being that will create the impact you’d most like. A practice is a recurrent and conscious activity – anything from hiking, to meditation, to karate, to comedy improv would count, the key thing is to choose practices which build a certain disposition. Tai chi and squash can both be practices but will build quite a different leadership presence. What are your practices?
A leader’s foundation is excellent physical health. You cannot cheat your fundamental biological system.
Centring and “Six Directions”
Centring and grounding are the skills of physically, mentally and emotionally “getting yourself together”. Breathing deeply with belly is a good place to start. Also, try balancing your posture and attention up and down, left and right and forwards and backwards. Depending on the type of presence you are wishing to build you may need more of one than the other though balance is always useful for engendering trust.
Identify your strengths…and weaknesses
We all have different virtues and identifying these is useful for having an impact. Equally, all strengths have another side and this sometimes needs to be moderated to lead and influence effectively. You may for example tend to come forward and up with lots of energy and enthusiasm which can be very useful, excites others but may not be appropriate when a more considered way of being is called upon.
Lead from your heart
Authenticity and passion are compelling which is where much training in the area goes wrong. Values are not abstract concepts but a lived embodied experience for any effective influencer. “Be yourself” and “lead from you heart” are classic pieces of advice that still apply in the modern world.
If you liked this article you may like to look at the following:
- Building Effective Teams
- Leadership and the Body
- What is Embodied Training? Leadership and Stress Management Video
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