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Living and Leading Your Life

By December 28, 2015January 30th, 2017Private Musings
leading your life cover with an African lion.

The world always looks for leadership, perhaps most vigorously when situations in life appear out of control. Regardless whether elections, world events, family turmoil, or workplace stress are causing the impact, leaders are relied upon to inspire and motivate. Yet many of these events affect everyone, including the leaders expected to provide guidance. Where does inspiration come from then? Leading your life with integrity can fuel your motivation while inspiring those around you.

Distinction Between Action and Presence

Although there is no single agreed-upon definition of a leader, the totality of a leader incorporates many qualities. Most definitions refer back to the activity of being a leader in addition to intangible qualities inherent within a leader. My simplified definition of a leader is someone who lives with integrity, thereby impacting others.

There is a difference between the action a leader takes, and the presence a leader has. Both action and presence are critical elements in a leader, but both aren’t always viable at the same time.

Taking action at times of crisis is showing leadership and is sometimes demonstrated as a moral conviction — for example, running to the site of a tragedy or accident to help others despite personal danger. This demonstration of moral leadership often translates into doing something that needs to be done when nobody else is doing it. While exemplary and frequently indicative of an individual who may be a true leader, a single action isn’t necessarily the indicative mark of a “Leader”.

The personal presence of a leader is measured in the way one carries oneself that reveals the character within. Defined in simple terms, it is weighed by one’s ability to engage, connect and influence others.  In a work environment, leadership presence can be found at all levels of an organization, and at senior levels of an organization, it is referred to as executive presence.

Authentic Connection

We are wired as human beings to be connected to each other. In order to thrive and function optimally — at work or home — we all need connection. Without it, our nervous system responds by anger or fear, in addition to discouragement and ultimately, a complete disengagement which can lead to depression.

In the midst of tragedy and chaos, we have countless stories of individuals stepping up courageously to help others in need, answering a critical call for help while simultaneously soothing the emotional need for connection. From the everyday heroes among us to the dedicated professional first responders, hostage negotiators, and other front line workers, the action of leadership is nobly illustrated.

But even when heroic action isn’t warranted, a strong presence still magnetizes and connects us. There’s a reason social media has become not only popular but has also re-scripted much of our communication. It provides a relatively simple-to-use, quick method to connect, share information, inspiration, and facets of oneself in a group format. In many ways, it is our fall-back mode of connection, a false sense of emotional security.

A Leader Connects Through Personal Presence

A leader’s presence can answer the void felt during the shock and grief of a crisis. Their presence simultaneously can reassure, inspire, and even develop human potential. It doesn’t matter how quiet or even introverted that individual may be. We instinctively gravitate towards that which supports our own presence and reassures us.

Through connection, followers are not only heartened, they feel more adequately enabled to fully develop their own abilities. Following a good leader is good for an organization at the same time. Strengthening relationships through shared identity and understanding builds a sense of unity and creates a culture that energizes the organization and the individuals within it.
Everyone has the ability to develop presence and lead within their own life. Even the act of following can make you a good leader, if you carry through on the messages and lessons of inspiration and motivation, including your self-development.  There’s no reason to wait for hard times to demonstrate leadership through heroic action. Developing leadership presence is highly rewarding and influential in all areas of life.

How to Develop Presence

1. Have a vision and be able to articulate it clearly.
Consider what your greatest potential contribution is in all areas of your life. When you feel passionately about how you can make a difference, your enthusiasm shows. Your passion carries over and others will feel it, too, inspiring others to remember that their work has a purpose and what they do makes a difference.
2. Act from your values.
When you operate from a strong sense of conviction, your confidence solidifies. Operating within your values is the basis for finding common ground with others.
3. Be resilient.
We don’t control what happens around us but we can control our reaction to it. By demonstrating emotional intelligence and being agile in your response to events, you allow more opportunity for the engagement and connection that is a fundamental part of leadership presence. Incorporate input and feedback, demonstrating both trust in others and accountability.
4. Choose to be an honorable role-model.
As you develop your presence, you also have the responsibility of maintaining integrity. When you choose to inspire and motivate others via leadership, they will watch you. Maintain qualities worthy of the role you have. Start by being accountable, truthful, and trustworthy.
5. Strengthen — or develop — your authority.
Whether you hold positional authority or not, you do have an opportunity to build personal authority. Create trust, loyalty and a deep connection to your vision and values by developing personal authority. Authority builds as you expand learning, profit from even the most difficult experiences by deepening your perspective, and grow in compassion.

We can look to others for inspiration, and be grateful when we find them and enjoy benefiting from their wisdom. But there are times we need a little help and there is no one around to inspire. That’s an opportunity to step up and develop your own qualities. Who knows who might be watching you.

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