Dynamic leaders–leaders who have a presence–are made, not born. This applies to both men and women. Anyone can develop and improve his or her leadership skills to become a more authentic leader whom others want to follow.
However, being in a position of leadership can be particularly challenging for some women, given the cultural stereotypes and gender typing that pervades the business world. The rules for women are different and more taxing than those for men. For example, where a man might be viewed as a dynamic leader, a woman would be viewed as too aggressive. Being a woman has both disadvantages and advantages in terms of leadership presence. One key to success is for women to tune in to the organizational climate and make adjustments so that the disadvantages are minimized and advantages are maximized.
For both men and women, projecting strength and decisiveness during difficult times is a hallmark of leadership presence. However, women are culturally expected to be sympathetic in difficult situations. In actuality, this is an opportunity for women to demonstrate leading with presence by showing empathy, while at the same time helping others to navigate change. Many female leaders have effectively used compassion to win over associates in challenging times, thereby building trust and engaging their organizations.
Understanding the audience (or reading the room) is a critical component of leading with presence. It can come through research and practice at developing people skills and emotional intelligence, or it may be a more natural capability. Women can better connect with people and inspire confidence in their own leadership by:
*Paying attention to body language.
*Tailoring presentations to the audience.
*Looking for ways to build connection rather than “preach.”
For many people, public speaking is their biggest fear. This is often true with women, simply because in general they have not been openly welcomed to speak their minds in the business world. However, confident public speaking is another skill that can be developed; it comes with practice, practice, and more practice.
Speaking with presence begins with understanding the audience and then presenting to them in a way that facilitates connection. Greeting people ahead of time, listening before speaking, and storytelling are all techniques for building a relationship with an audience that leads to a more productive presentation.