4 Ways to Project Leadership Qualities

by on May 24th, 2017

You’ll learn many sophisticated management theories in business school, and they will make you a more effective leader. But some part of leadership still comes down to a less easily quantifiable essence, a “she has it” quality that inspires people to follow. This is sometimes referred to as executive presence.

We often talk about executive presence as if it’s an inherent quality. But executive presence can be learned. Here’s what you need to know about projecting professional leadership qualities to advance your career.

1. Start by believing in your leadership qualities

If you think of yourself as being junior, that will come across to your peers. Own your accomplishments and understand how much value you bring to your organization. Write down what you’ve achieved, revise your resume, reread performance reports from past years as a way of remembering everything you’ve accomplished.

You can also ask a friend or colleague to pitch you to yourself: She can pretend she’s pitching you as an expert for a panel in your subject area of expertise. Hearing your accomplishments cited by someone else can help you acknowledge your achievements. Also, remind yourself frequently why you love what you do; your passion for your subject matter area of expertise will come through in your presentation and will inspire others—and you.

2. Watch your body language

Use big gestures and take up space, and people will think you’re bigger than you are. If you’re sitting, lean forward in your chair, plant your feet on the floor, put your arms on the table. Section off space by putting papers and a cup of coffee in front of you. If you’re standing, put your hands on your hips and one foot forward. Don’t curl your back, tilt your head, or fold your arms across your chest; these are all ways of making yourself seem smaller than you.

And of course, projecting your leadership qualities requires making eye contact. In addition, avoid tilting your head, nodding at every comment, or making small noises of affirmation (especially if you are in a junior role or tend to be shy); instead, let people try to impress you.

3. Prepare for your role as leader

Always know what your job is in any room. What is your goal? Do you need to emerge from the room with ideas? A consensus? A to-do list of next steps? Then, arm yourself with what you’ll need to achieve that goal. It’s hard to lead if you don’t have any idea where you’re going.

4. Play to your strengths

Understand there is no one right way to be a leader or to project leadership qualities. Someone who is typically quiet or introverted can ask especially insightful questions to move a decision-making process forward; someone who is usually more extroverted can feed off the energy of the crowd to motivate people. Don’t feel that you are out of the running because you don’t fit some simplistic stereotype of a leader.

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