The Power of Leadership Presence

Power of Leadership Presence

What is Presence?

‘I know it when I see it’ is what most of us would say. But here’s a definition that might help:

“It reveals itself as the magnetic, radiating effect you have on others when you’re being the authentic you, giving them your full respect and attention, speaking honestly and letting your unique character traits flow. As leaders, we must be technically competent to gain others’ respect, but it’s our unique genuine presence that inspires people and prompts them to trust us’ James Scouller, The Three Levels of Leadership.

So, presence is not an act or an image. It’s not ‘window dressing’; it’s not a ‘charm offensive’ and it’s not about power over others – and it’s not necessarily about title, seniority or age.

And it’s definitely not trying too hard to be somebody else. (Although observing others and learning from them can always help us to be our best – in fact, I highly recommend doing just that!)

One way to look at it is to think about being our best REAL selves!

We’ve all come across leaders with presence.

  • Leaders with presence inspire us to do our best work – and mobilise us to take action.
  • Their words and actions are congruent (they don’t say one thing and do another) and they don’t shy away from dealing with the ‘tough stuff’. They ‘speak their truth’ – concisely, clearly and with impact (no waffling or muttering) – and with positive intent.
  • Leaders with presence are self-confident but not arrogant.
  • They can be at their most powerful and ‘present’ when they are silent; listening. Not just when they are in the spotlight. In fact, leaders with presence can help others to shine.
  • Leaders with presence are comfortable with who they are. That’s NOT the same as saying ‘that’s just the way I am and I can’t change’. Leaders with presence are willing to hear feedback and to improve in the areas that will make a positive difference to their leadership.
  • Leaders with presence often have a strong personal ‘brand.’ We know what they stand for.

Is Presence the same as Charisma?

I don’t believe it is. Leaders with presence may have charisma but leaders with charisma may not necessarily have presence.

On Losing my Personal Presence

Inspiring Leader

I found this quote on a blog post recently and it got me thinking about a conversation I had some years ago with a potential coaching client. It served as one of my best pieces of learning about Personal Presence (and I’ll talk more about this subject over the next couple of weeks).

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. — John Quincy Adams, 6th US president (1767-1848)

This potential client asked to see me as he wanted to be a more inspirational leader.

We’d only just met.  He kept me waiting for half an hour or so with the comment ‘got a lot on, can only spare you 20 minutes.’ (Our meeting was schedule for one hour)

During our conversation, he answered his phone.  Twice.  He was distracted, agitated and not at all focused. I could have challenged him firmly on that.  I didn’t. (Lost Opportunity Number 1)

I started to feel sad for him but also agitated and angry.  And that’s clearly what his team were experiencing too – that was exactly the feedback they’d given him, he told me, in a recent 360 feedback report. The impact he was having on me was the impact he was having with his own team.  His anxiety and lack of focus was causing them to feel anxious and unfocused, too. I didn’t share that observation respectfully with him. (Lost Opportunity Number 2)

An inspiring leader to me is someone who inspires others to do their best work.

In that moment, I did not feel inspired to do my best work.  I wanted to scream or run away.  I could understand how his team were feeling. Could I have shared that observation with him with empathy?  Possibly (Lost Opportunity Number 3)

‘How would it be’, I asked him, ‘if you were to turn your phone off and really focus on this conversation so that we can do some good thinking together about inspiring leadership?’

Actually that’s not true.  That’s what I wish I’d said (isn’t hindsight wonderful…).  I wish I’d helped him make the connection between how he was being on a daily basis, how I was feeling in that moment and the links from both to inspirational leadership.  In short, I wish I’d been more ‘present’.

‘Instead, I colluded with his ‘busyness’ and said maybe we should speak at another time when he was ‘less busy’. (When hell freezes over).

What a series of lost opportunities – for me and for him.  I did not ‘first seeking to understand’; challenge him firmly and respectfully, or connect with him on a personal level – in short, I did not enable him to start to  ‘dream more, learn more, do more and become more’.

Why not?

I was too focused on my own performance, trying too hard to win a new client.

Have you, too, ever ‘given away’ your personal power or presence?

So, what is presence, why is it important and how do we know when we’ve got it?

We Need to Talk – Step Four

Start with the end in mind

In my last few blog postings I’ve been sharing some steps on the journey to mastering those conversations that we’ve been avoiding.

Here’s a recap on what we’ve covered so far:

  • – Step One:  Identify what it is that makes a conversation difficult for YOU
  • – Step Two: identify some choice points
  • – Step Three: Know what you’re feeling and where you’re feeling it

This week we’re looking at Preparation.  Because for so many of us the difficult conversation goes on the ‘too difficult right now’ pile. It feels like too big a task to tackle.

That’s because we don’t allow ourselves time to really think about it, let alone start to do some preparation or quality thinking.

So as Stephen Covey would say….

Start with the end in mind.

Here are four questions to get you started.

Question One: What do I want to achieve from this conversation

  • – For me?
  • – For the other person?
  • – For the organisation?

Question Two: What assumptions might I be making about the situation or the other person?  If I were to step into the other person’s shoes, what might I notice?

Question Three: If I imagine the beginning, middle and end of this conversation, what would be included in each part?

  • – Beginning – outline the issue and your reasons for having the conversation.  Be clear and transparent.
  • – Middle – exploration of the issue or situation from both sides.
  • – End – agreement on next steps, the way forward.

Question Four:  How can I prepare for this conversation?  For some people, it helps to write it down; to practise it out loud with a friend, colleague or their coach. (I practise in the car!)

Of course, you can’t script these conversations but you’ll be amazed at how much writing things down or saying them out loud can help you to feel grounded and prepared for the real thing.

I hope this helps you to make a start.

Because  as they say Prior Proper Planning Prevents P**s  Poor Performance




We Need to Talk – Step Three

The 'F' Word

The ‘F’ word  

That’s ‘F’ for Feelings in case you were wondering …….

In my last two postings I’ve been sharing some steps on the journey to mastering tough/challenging/difficult conversations – call them what you will.

We’ve covered two steps so far.

  • Step One:  Identify what it is that makes a conversation difficult for YOU
  • Step Two: Identify some choice points

This time we’re getting in touch with our feelings (if you think this is about being pink and fluffy or hugging trees you are WRONG!!).

We’re looking at emotions, too. (Feelings are low key but sustainable; emotions are more intense and normally temporary – does it matter?  Not really)

So, how are you feeling about that challenging conversation?

  • What emotions are coming up for you?

Anger? Sadness? Fear?

  • WHERE do you experience that emotion –   In your chest? Your stomach? Your shoulders? Your head? What aspects of the conversation might create strong emotions for you?
  • How are you feeling about yourself in the context of this conversation?
  • When I ask my clients these questions, they sometimes have no idea – we’re often so used to suppressing emotion that we don’t even know WHAT we feel or WHERE in our bodies we feel it!

Desensitisation can be a great defence mechanism, too – but what happens when all that feeling gets suppressed?

So here’s the third step to having that Conversation – Know what you’re feeling and where you’re feeling it!


So you know what to do with those feelings.

Feelings are data.  Ignore them at your peril!

Difficult Conversations – a True Story

What are your choice points?

Following my blog post Shut Up and Listen, I received this email from Steve (not his real name)

Hi Lynn

Your ‘shut up and listen’ email last week struck a chord. You talked about powerful questions but I found a really simple question helped me to have a difficult conversation that I’d been avoiding.

A couple of weeks ago I got it into my mind that one of my staff members was bucking the system. He works part-time anyway and when I asked him to work an extra day he did, but started to call in sick the day he usually works. This happened twice.  The third time I felt really frustrated but wasn’t sure how to handle it. I started to see a pattern. I assumed that he just didn’t want to work the extra hours and so would agree to working extra days but then fail to turn up on his usual day. Recently this particular staff member was supposed to come into work for one day after his recent holiday but called in sick.  I didn’t get angry, but the scenario kept going round in my brain to the point it started to get annoying and blown out of proportion. I didn’t say anything to him, though.

A week after the incident I sat down for a chat over lunchtime and casually asked about his holiday.  What came next wasn’t what I had expected! It turned out he had recently had a milestone birthday (the big 5-0!) and he was not dealing with it very well.  I was stunned!  He is a rock in the business, looks far younger than his years and is more than capable of doing whatever work is given to him.  I value him more than anything. So much so that we had a conversation about whether he wanted to continue working in the business.  I made it quite clear that I still want him here as part of the team.

It’s easy to assume situations.  Having that conversation was very worthwhile because it highlighted that it isn’t actually anything to do with work, it was something entirely different.

There are three (maybe more!) great lessons for all of us here.

1. The importance of just starting a dialogue.  A simple question – ‘How was your holiday?’ can open the doors to a courageous conversation.

2. The danger of making an assumption – making up stories in our mind rather than checking out the facts (remember the ladder of inference)

3. There are choice points in every conversation. (I’ve highlighted those in red).  Choosing what to think (our thoughts create our reality;) Choosing what story we tell ourselves about an event (interpreting); choosing what to do or not do.

What are your ‘choice points’?

We Need to Talk – Step Two



In my last post, I asked you to identify what makes a conversation difficult for you.

How many things did you have on your list?

One?  Two?  More than five?

Two people responded privately to that post with their own ‘light-bulb’ moments.  Coincidentally both of them realised that conversations with a particular individual or ‘type’ of individual (in one case senior women; in another ‘whingers and whiners’) were particularly challenging.

For most of us there are people or ‘types’ of people or situations that press our ‘hot buttons’; trigger feelings, actions or behaviour that is not always helpful to us.

Well here’s the thing.  Carl Jung said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

So once you can recognise these hot-buttons or triggers –  you can start to look at what you can change. (Because, believe me, you CAN change if you choose to.)

And much as you wish ‘they’ would change – you are only responsible for your own behaviour and reactions; not anybody else’s.

Just knowing this gives you choices.

‘I can choose to do what I’ve always done, or I can choose to do something different – and I can learn how to do something different’

So here’s the SECOND step to having that Conversation – Identify your Choice Points and EXPERIMENT!

Here’s an example.

• I can choose to say nothing in that meeting (my default) OR I can choose to say something.

• I can choose to send an email (and avoid difficult verbal communication – my default) or I can choose to pick up the phone/talk to the person face to face.

What’s the worst that can happen?

We Need to Talk – Step One

We Need to Talk - Step One

Picture the scene….

Your heart’s racing, your stomach’s churning……yes, it’s a ‘tough conversation’ that you’re really dreading (and, be honest, have probably been avoiding for a while).

Have you ever dodged the issue, backed down, waffled around the subject, gone in with all guns blazing, felt like a rabbit in the headlights – some or all of the above?  Me too!

Even thinking about a challenging conversation can trigger our fight, flight or freeze response.

So, often, we do nothing… hope it’ll go away…. Tell ourselves we’ll tackle it when we are ‘less busy’.

When in fact we know that avoidance leads to even worse problems in the long run. So where to start?

One of my mantras is ‘Just take the first step’

So here’s the FIRST step to having that Conversation – KNOW YOURSELF

Identify what it is that makes the conversation difficult for YOU.

• Do you want to be liked or to avoid conflict? (I’m a ‘nice person’)

• Don’t trust yourself to manage your emotional state?

• Don’t know the ‘right’ words?

• Don’t want to rock the boat?

So grab a piece of paper and make a start:

‘I’m avoiding this conversation because…..’

Then identify any key themes or patterns that strike you

This exercise is key – it helps us to understand our beliefs about ourselves and others; our mindset (Growth or Fixed?) and the unhelpful scripts that we are using about ourselves or others.

The Power of the Unique Question

The Power of the Unique Question

Shut up and Listen!

Sorry if that sounds rude but one of the mistakes we sometimes make when going into a conversation is to think we should have all the answers – slick, smart, clever answers.

Because, as a leader or manager that’s what you’re paid to do, right?


The best leaders (and coaches!) I know have mastered the art of asking great questions (and listening REALLY well) in order to get to the best answers.

And let me be clear.  This is NOT a set of questions that you can learn by rote and pull out randomly.  Oh no.

Now, there are some great questions that can serve many purposes because it’s always good to have a starting point. But we can do so much more than that if we want to get to mastery.

My wonderful coach mentor recently described a really great question as ‘one you would only ever use once’.

Because it only means something to that particular person. You’re using their words as part of your question.

That is really powerful.

It means really listening to the other person’s words rather than paraphrasing, interpreting, assuming or avoiding – because we are then seeing the world from what Chris Argyris describes as our ‘ladder of inference’; our own reality, our own map of the world.

I remember my early coach-training days – struggling to think of my next question and missing swathes of information, nuances, patterns in the conversation.  Because I was so focused on my own performance at the expense of really listening.  And I know today that when I have a busy mind, or I’m not ‘fully present, or I’m rushing, trying too hard, anxious, tired…. I’m probably not asking the right questions.

That old cliché about having two ears and one mouth is so true!

Lead With Impact


April 2015


This intensive three day residential programme for senior managers will enable you to:

  • – Identify your unique, authentic  leadership brand;
  • – Shift the mindsets and habits that reduce your influence and impact;
  • – Understand how others see you – the good, the bad and the ugly!
  • – Communicate with poise and power and develop practical steps to grounded confidence
    and control;
  • – Engage and influence through your energy and presence;
  • – Identify specific, measureable actions you can take to lead your team and influence stakeholders more effectively.
  • – Work intensively with a small group of like-minded leaders who will encourage your success;
  • – Step back from the day to day ‘busyness’ and focus on your growth as an inspiring leader.

There will be no more than six people on this programme to ensure you get maximum individual attention, coaching, support, guidance and feedback.There will also be some pre-work to help you get the most from the three days.Where and When 22 – 24 April 2015, Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa, Nantwich, Cheshire

To find out more, please email or call us on 01729 548024 to arrange a 30 minute telephone conversation with Lynn.



Lynn Scott_small

Lynn Scott – Lynn Scott Coaching Ltd

Lynn is a pragmatic and practical world class coach who helps leaders to lead with confidence.  She helps her clients be bolder and more courageous leaders, helps them have a far greater understanding of who they are, what drives them, how their beliefs impact on their behaviour and what to do about it!

Lynn will be leading this three day workshop. Read more about Lynn



Attachment-1Caroline Goyder  Founder of The Gravitas Method

Caroline worked for many years as a voice teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama, and has spent the last ten years developing a system to help her non-acting clients to perform with the same poise, presence and power in everyday life. RED magazine recently called Caroline one of Britain’s top coaches, and her client list is as diverse as her knowledge, from CEOs of major companies, TV news anchors and an array of people in between. Her passion is helping people from all walks of life sound, and feel their best.

Caroline will be joining us for day 2 of the programme. Read more about Caroline:



Cliff Bashforth – Simply Image

Cliff is an international style consultant for Europe’s leading image consultancy. He works with TV presenters, politicians and major global organisations and presents to audiences on topics such as the psychology of colour and image at work.

Cliff will be joining us for a two hour masterclass on Your Signature Style. Read more about Cliff:

Your Thoughts Create Your Reality

Thoughts into reality

“Change Your Thoughts and You Change Your World” (Norman Vincent Peale)

  • I’ll never be able to…..
  • That’s just a dream……
  • I’ve never been any good at…….
  • I should/ought/must….
  • It’s impossible at the moment for me to……

So starts our ‘inner dialogue’ and self-limiting beliefs.