Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Snapshot of Leadership Presence: A Personal Story

I had worked as a volunteer in a federal election campaign.  My volunteer activities were not glamorous, mostly doing phone bank calls for several weeks in the evening after work.  About a year after the election, this politician published a book and was doing book signings across the country.  One of these was scheduled to take place at a neighborhood Chicago book store, just a few blocks from my home. I had admired this official from afar, but never had met him, so I was excited to be able to attend his book signing. 

When I arrived at the venue it was packed with several hundred people.  Prior to the book signing, the politician gave a short presentation, but, although the presentation was very good, it wasn’t this that impressed me the most that evening.

After his speech, I stood in line along with the hundreds that were gathered, and about 30 minutes later I was face-to-face with the man I had worked so hard to get elected. 
As I stood at the signing table, I mentioned to him that I had worked the Chicago phone bank for his election.  Immediately, he turned away from the book he was signing, looked directly at me and engaged me in a conversation.  I will never forget those penetrating eyes!   He asked me about my volunteer experience and what kind of work I did, waited for my answers and responded so that I knew he had really listened to what I had shared.  

In those few moments I felt like I was the only one present in the room.  What impressed me was that his focus was on me; he didn’t seem distracted by the line of people waiting,  he listened attentively and was curious, and he authentically responded to me.

This is leadership presence:  focus, listening, observing, being open and curious, and responding authentically to people.

People with presence are better problem solvers, experience less stress, have more vitality, have increased job performance and, not surprisingly, have better relationships with people!  Research by Dr. Ellen Langer has also shown that women who practice mindfulness behaviors are more likely to overcome implicit biases that are associated with the Glass Ceiling. 

So take the “Presence Challenge” and be a better leader.  Make it a habit to be present for every conversation you have each day!  It makes a difference.

Get my new book:  Leadership Development for Healthcare:  A Pathway, Process, and Workbook.  Available from AHIMA press and all online booksellers.

(Look for more in 2018 from the Monarch Center at   A tuition-free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Developing the Habit of Leadership Presence will be open for registration in April).      

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