The 3 Cs of Leadership Presence

While attending a national sales conference, I sat down for a quick bite to eat with two senior executives. The discussion quickly moved into familiar territory: how to squeeze more value out of top performers. The two top performers we discussed were like night and day. One top performer averaged high dollar, low volume deals, while the other averaged low dollar, high volume deals. Both consistently exceeded revenue targets. From the outside looking in, all things seem equal. However, the higher dollar deals invariably led to more opportunities.

Both performers had great technical knowledge, meticulously prepared for meetings, and were expert presenters. So how did one manage to consistently close larger deals with what seemed like half the effort? What separated one performer from the other, and how could this be duplicated?

After further discussion, we narrowed it down to an ability to gain access and engage the C-Suite. How did one performer master this skill that eluded the other? This baffled the two senior executives. I, however, knew the answer to this dilemma. What the top performer lacked in technical and process knowledge, this person more than made up for in polish, confidence, and purpose. Simply stated, when walking into a meeting this individual owned the room. This skill is known as Leadership Presence.

Everyone has the ability to lead. Leadership presence is what often separates good leaders from transformational leaders. Leadership presence is what makes your impact memorable. I’ve had the good fortune of being exposed to some extraordinary leaders. From watching FedEx Founder and Chair Fred Smith to witnessing the Dalai Lama, they all share three common traits that enable their presence to be felt and experienced.


Leadership presence begins and ends with confidence, in both one’s ability and in the potential impact on an audience. An assurance in what you are and what you have to offer is the easy part. Leadership presence is also about understanding how your audience benefits from your message — the value you add to others. Leadership presence gives your audience a belief that taking your advice is the only choice.


Leaders are, by nature, effective communicators. Those with presence appreciate the power of clarity. Clarity of thought is critical in conveying the right message, to the right audience, in the right way. You can speak with confidence and conviction, but if you lack clarity, people will find it hard to remember what you said. Speak from the heart to connect. Speak with passion to engage. Speak with clarity to galvanize. After all, people can only share what they remember.


If you don’t believe in your message, no one else will. Effective communication is about understanding and believing what you’re saying. In the age of social media, authenticity is the rule — not the exception. Authentic leaders are true to themselves, passionate about living their purpose, and focus on adding value to others. Leadership presence shows your audience how you walk the talk. Any level of dishonesty is a detriment to you, to your brand, and to your audience.

When someone with leadership presence walks into a room, you know it. Leaders with presence own the room. They make others feel comfortable to engage, with little to no effort. When they speak, people listen. Establishing thought leadership is part of the equation when creating your personal brand. Leadership presence is thought leadership 2.0. Confidently deliver your message with clarity and conviction, and start converting casual followers into loyal fans.

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Robin A. Henderson is the founder of Optimal Living, a lifestyle company helping people chart a unique path to a happy healthy optimal life. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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