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Leading as Acting

Stage Door (desaturated)Image by slimmer_jimmer via Flickr

Lesley Stahl said recently on MSNBC that President Barack Obama needs to learn to be the actor that President Ronald Reagan was. And she didn't mean when Reagan was a movie star. She meant when he was president.

A president -- or really a leader at any level, of any group -- is always "on stage."

  • If you're a "team lead," your team members are always watching you for tell-tale signs that you're worried about something, or hiding something, or that you like one person better than others.
  • If you're a C-level leader, employees in your company and people in your community are making assumptions every time you open your mouth about what's behind your words.

Your presence "on stage" is always a factor to be conscious of when you're a leader.

What do you do as a leader/actor to convey the total message you want to convey? Remember, everything you do and say is a reflection of you and your message:

  • What you look like
  • How you carry yourself
  • How organized you appear to be
  • How prepared you are to say something, whether it's spur-of-the-moment or a standing meeting

Whether you're new to a leadership role, or you've been a leader for decades, it's important to always be vigilant about the impression you're making. It's a matter of survival for political leaders, but it's no less an issue for corporate and non-profit and public sector leaders.

  • If you're a new leader, join the local Toastmasters Club. Get some basic training in comfortably thinking on your feet and coming off polished and self-assured. All in a low-risk environment.
  • Find a trusted confidant or two to give you feedback about how you're coming across at work. This has to be someone who is not afraid to tell you the truth, someone who cares about you as a person, and wants the best for you and your career.
  • Hire a coach to help you with specific aspects of your demeanor or style that seem to convey something you're not meaning to convey.

If we're leaders, we're always on stage. Just recognizing this and accepting it as true sets us up to close gaps between the message we're wanting to convey and the message that's getting through.   

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Thanks for writing this. Believe it or not I've been thinking a lot about "presence" and how important that is when it comes to networking. Great minds must think alike. :)

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