The best leaders usually have something beyond just their behavior – something distinctive that commands attention, wins people's trust and enables them to lead successfully, which is often called "leadership presence” (Scouller, 2011). Scouller suggested that it takes more than the right
knowhow, skills and behaviors to lead well – that it also demands "presence". However, that presence varies from person to person and research has shown it is hard to define in terms of common personality characteristics. The traits approach fails to capture the elusive phenomenon of presence. The other leading leadership theories do not address the nature and development of
Presence is a critical attribute leader/managers need to understand. It is not just a matter of showing up; actions, words, and the manner in which leader/managers carry themselves convey presence.
The impression a leader makes on others contributes to his success in leading them. This impression is the sum of a leader’s outward appearance, demeanor, actions, and words. I think we have all met a person who strikes us as a leader just by her/his presence.
1. Presence During Hardships
Leader/managers illustrate through their presence that they care. Leader/managers who routinely share in team hardships and dangers are a great inspiration t. Being where associates perform duties allows the leader to have firsthand knowledge of the real conditions associates face. It is not merely being there but also sharing the experience.
Effective leader/managers connect with their associates by sharing hardships and communicating openly to clearly see and feel what goes on from a subordinate’s perspective. That may mean working late to catch up on paperwork.
As the Inspector General for the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, I would talk to soldiers about their leaders. In one platoon, I discovered that the soldiers had little respect for their platoon leader. He lost their respect during a recent flood. The platoon tried to keep the water from their barracks by putting sandbags around it. As they worked, the water came and they ended up knee deep in water. The young platoon leader climbed up onto a conex container and directed their efforts from there. The perception was that he climbed out of the floodwaters to keep his feet dry while his soldiers had to work in the water. I asked the young man why he did it and he stated that he thought he could better supervise from there. He lost the respect of his subordinates because he did not share in their hardship--a bad decision on his part.