Executive Presence is not a skill or a tool. Executive Presence reflects your capacity to care for people and your willingness to create open positive mutual relationship with those around you as you enact your role.
In two-way positive relationships there is a positive flow of feeling from the leader to the individual or group, and there is a positive flow of feeling from the individuals and group to the leader.
Leaders who balance technical and professional competence, their track record, personal credibility, authenticity and personal qualities are likley to draw people to them.
Leaders integrating these aspects of their identity produce mutual (two-way) relationships.
Executive Presence includes the capacity to connect with people. Whether you know each person individually or not, you are drawn to them, and they are drawn to you. The emotional relationship, the feeling that flows between you and the group, is mutual.
This mutual flow of positive feeling towards others creates an open two-way channel for communication, for acceptance, for understanding and together, possibilities for the future can be created. Within any group, people are “attracted” to one another, or draw away from others, as in magnetic fields, or chemical attractions and repulsions, e.g. oil and water.
Let me introduce a word to you encompassing the flow of feeling amongst and between people. Jacob Moreno, a psychiatrist and social researcher whose work influences many in the field of interpersonal and group relationships, identified this two-way flow of feeling between people, as tele. Tele meaning distance as in tele communications, communication at a distance.
Moreno identified the flow of feeling between people relates to their interpersonal responses to one another. Tele, that flow of feeling, may be positive, negative or neutral. Tele has intensity and can be subjectively measured along a continuum of weak to strong. Tele emanates from the limbic system and enables us to gain insight to, appreciation of, and feelings for the makeup of the other person. Another way to describe tele is as two-way empathy. Tele creates interpersonal chemistry. The experience of positive tele can be described as hitting it off with another without ‘knowing’ them, producing positive vibes, and the experience of negative tele as personality clashes, or negative vibes.
How does tele, this flow of feeling, work?
Let me give you an example. I was working with Peter earlier this year. Peter is a seasoned leader, highly able, delivers results, has good interpersonal relationships and has a reputation for being innovative.
However Peter found leading groups nerve-wracking. As he approached a group, he described feeling anxious, as if he was going to have to stand up and account for himself. Obviously in leading change projects he did experience many challenges from teams he was working with. He would fret prior to leading groups and his way of coping was to be blunt, perceptive and direct in groups, both as a leader and as a participant. Peter would enter a group, ready for combat. In short, he felt a negative flow of feeling from the group to him. And as he reflected, Peter realised he had a negative flow of feeling towards the group, mostly generated by his anxieties and what he imagined.
Now I knew Peter quite well. I said have you thought of approaching groups as if they are your friends? Your companions, not your competitors. I want you to consider that group members are positive to you and they want to hear from you. Currently I notice you approach groups and respond everyone as if they are your enemies. This mirroring has had a significant affect on his life and his ease with groups.
Peter learned to re-orient from having his own feelings of anxieties and fears (of stuffing up, of not doing a great job, of everyone knowing more than he did) to the people he was with, and to their shared purpose.
Peter let me know what he was noticing. One affect he noticed was people there felt more included by him, more at ease, more likely to participate. He also noticed people ready to listen and to engage with one another.
Peter learned that people wanted to hear what he had to say, even if it wasn’t good news. Both his warm up to entering groups and his emotional expansiveness shifted. He discovered he could be friendly and look forward to being in groups where there were tough decisions to be made, and where strong different views existed.
Peter learned that by being open and positive towards group members, by reversing roles and standing in the shoes of those there, learning to see the situation through their eyes, he learned that this affected others, and they connected with him as the leader. He noticed groups he was were more open to him, and they connected more easily with one another, even though their views on the matters in hand, were different.
Here are some questions
How on earth do you do project a positive flow of feeling toward others? How do you as a leader communicate that you like and care for others, whether your message is positive, or whether you are about to communicate bad news.
The long and short of this article, is if you are open to others, and accept their quirks, foibles, dreams and ambitions, then you are likely to be able to generate a positive flow of feeling towards them. If you are resentful, anxious, hurt or angry, the chances of you communicating aspects of these feelings is likely and the chances of communicating a negative or ambivalent flow of feeling, is more likely.
As I prepare to be with a group, I do my best to learn who is in the group, the range of drivers and concerns people have, and how this relates to our shared purpose. Mostly I am able to approach a group with positive emotional flow of feeling, and as we begin our work together I am aware of the reciprocity of this flow of feeling, and use this as a guide to how we proceed.