February 3, 2023

Leadership: Presenting your Best Self

Shailja Sharma

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How you show up in the world speaks volumes before you even speak a single word. Self-presentation is any behaviour or action made with the intent to influence or change how other people see you. When you try to present yourself as favourably as possible, depending on the audience and the occasion, you may portray a different side of yourself. After all, we are all multi-layered, complex individuals.

As a leader, you are constantly being scrutinized and sized up. Perceptions matter. Leaving this to chance or dismissing this facet of your leadership can hinder your success. I do not advocate for crafting an image that is disingenuous or manipulative. Although a leader must pay attention to crafting the right image, it must reflect their true identity and core beliefs. Authenticity is the attribute that forges true connection and trust. Followers want to believe in their leaders. They want to be able to relate to them and be inspired by them. They want truth and honesty. This article aims to help you build your leadership brand and step out with confidence and make a meaningful impact in your sphere of influence.

Define your Leadership Brand

Personal branding is the art of becoming knowable, likeable, and trustable. – John Jantsch

Take some time to get to know yourself. Who are you? What are your values? What do you stand for? Who do you want to influence? What impact do you want to have in the world? What legacy do you want to leave? Create a mental picture of who you must become and how you need to portray yourself to achieve your leadership dreams. Visualization is a very important tool. Professional athletes use this tool to bring their A-game to outperform themselves and their competitors.

When you have clarity about your own personal leadership mission, you can begin to understand how you wish to be perceived by others. You want to own and live your brand. Your intentions, words, actions, and behaviour have to align with the image you wish to portray. Digging deep into what makes you different, and playing to your strengths will help you to differentiate yourself. Embracing your uniqueness, and staying true to yourself will help you to stand out and be authentic.

Connect with your Passion

Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world.” –Winston Churchill

Now that you know what you stand for and what your message is, work on communicating it masterfully. The most inspiring speakers throughout history have one thing in common – they all had passion. Words are powerful. Words have changed the course of history. Words have defined eras. Words have transformed societies. However, a successful speech is more than a set of spoken words. It is a combination of a speaker’s delivery, context, language, and ability to connect and inspire. How you put together words that convey your passion and then deliver them to create a lasting impression on your audience can be a vehicle to great success.

Winston Churchill, a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1953, partly for the speeches he wrote himself. Churchill overcame a speech impediment to earn his place in the pantheon of orators. His passion was contagious and inspired a generation of soldiers to stand and fight to the very end. What will you inspire your followers to do?

Cultivate your Personal Style

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” — Rachel Zoe

Remember, communication encompasses much more than words. How you dress can detract from your message or send the wrong message. What you wear communicates to the world what you think of yourself, and how much you value yourself. If you want to really ‘show up’ and have presence, use your wardrobe as an extension of the message you are trying to communicate to your audience. Choose your professional attire to suit your clientele and the values of the organization. Be aware of the relationship between perceived power and attire. You may also want to relate to your audience, so wearing traditional outfits at certain occasions can reflect your respect for important cultural norms and traditions.

How you dress can also reflect your personality and become a part of your personal brand. After all, if you truly want to stand out in a positive way, adding your own spin on your outfit can help you to be memorable. However, make sure it is appropriate to the occasion so that you are memorable in a favourable way.

Ensure you are always well-groomed and pay attention to personal hygiene. When you are impeccable with your habits and pay attention to small details such as ensuring your shoes are in good condition, your clothes are well-tailored and in good condition, you convey an image of being well put together, and it will give you confidence.

Mind your Manners

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

If you truly want to be a great leader that creates a lasting legacy, treat people with kindness. After all, the only legacy that is truly worth having is the impact you have on the people around you. You can make an impression with your powerful personal brand, rousing speeches, and your executive presence, but what will the cleaning lady say about you? What will your personal assistant say about you? What will the people you interact with daily say about you? Strive to have empathy and compassion for those around you. Be sincere and show them that you truly care about them. If you are genuine and transparent, they will trust you, and follow you no matter what obstacles lie on the road ahead. Loyalty is earned and people will follow leaders that listen. Leaders that care. Leaders that inspire and uplift. Show up with a smile.

Article by Shailja Sharma, SBS Faculty Member, Leadership and Career Coach

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