Let’s start here: I’m an Admin/Human Resources guy. It’s not that I’m opposed to guns (I own several) but when my boss suggested I start wearing a 9mm every day, I was taken back a bit. Yes, I was in the military but…it was the Navy! We don’t, as a matter of course, wear weapons day to day on board ship. I was, although, in charge of the Security and Police departments (for 6 installations in Washington, DC) and all of my people carried weapons. My boss thought it would add some “street cred” to my new position.
This is what I found….people listen to you when you’re carrying a gun on your hip. I don’t think that it was the gun as much as it how it impacted the way I carried myself. I, admittedly, felt a little bit like a bad ass.
Leadership presence, the “how” of carrying ourselves, rests at the core of influencing others and leading them. If we aren’t presenting ourselves as someone that should be followed, why would anyone want to follow us?
In nearly 30 years of leading others, from that job as Director of Security to two following tours serving as a Commanding Officer, I’ve found that you don’t need to carry a 9mm to get people to listen, you just have to present yourself as someone that warrants following. Here are some things that I’ve found helpful.
Fix Your Mind
Appearing confident starts with feeling confident. Don’t dwell on your mistakes and shortcomings. I grew up as a fat kid with few friends. I can’t focus on my own insecurities. As such, neither should you! Focus on your accomplishments. Instead, I focus on those things I’ve done where no one thought I could do them. I then think (and actually say to myself), “Yeah, I did that shit!” Replay the big score in your head and know you are a force to be reckoned with. Keep your head up, shoulders back and your swagger on. If you think it, you’ll be it.
Know Your Stuff
As previously mentioned, I’m an HR guy (not a police guy). That didn’t keep me from knowing the job and what needed to be done. I studied, listened, and learned. I knew the job and what needed to be done (I even got pepper sprayed so I knew what it was like). Don’t feel you’re too important for the details. Know where the “I’s” are dotted and the “T’s” are crossed. You’ll be respected for it by your team and your superiors.
Speak Your Mind (But Mind How You Speak)
If you’re passionate about something, let your passion show (even if it’s not popular or potentially contentious). That doesn’t mean to talk over others, show anger when they disagree or to run people over. I’ve found being considerate, matter of fact and showing my passion when speaking my mind has won more people over than if I am logically angry (making a ton of sense but presenting it like an ass). All continuing relationships are based on reciprocity. Be respectful and you’ll be respected.
Dress The Part
People make value judgements about you within the first 4-5 second of meeting you. If you look like a mess, you’ll be judged as such. Fit how you dress to the position. I wore a gun and switched my daily uniform to camouflage (which doesn’t really blend in with brick buildings). Wear what the job dictates with perfection. Even if you wear a smock, making it the cleanest, best smock in the whole damn place.
Laugh At Your Mistakes
Leaders that can laugh at their own mistakes show an air of confidence that is beyond reproach. Further, it helps create an atmosphere of risk without fear of reprisal. Laughing at a mistake gives you the power over it. That power is felt by those you lead. That mistake doesn’t own you, you own it.
Circumstances dictate a lot of different things. You can carry a 9mm into the boardroom and people will listen and follow you for a while (mostly because they are afraid). I wouldn’t suggest that.
What I do suggest is that you take some time to prepare yourself mentally and physically to lead. Do the leg work to warrant following and you’ll be followed.
What’s your best tip on establishing your presence? SHOUT IT OUT! I’d love to learn from you!