When it comes to describing leadership styles there are two words that are often confused, especially by people with English as their second or third language.  ‘Charisma’ and ‘presence’ may seem similar but their difference is important.  While charisma is the kind of indescribable charm that is typically associated with extraordinary rock and movie stars, ‘presence’ is much more fundamental and, luckily more common. And while it can sometimes be fun to have a leader with charisma, it is certainly not essential. However, the same cannot be said for presence. All leaders need to create an air of presence, without it, their level of influence is very likely to be limited.

Some say that ‘presence’ is the first element of charisma; I see it as the ability to be noticed without showing off.  For example, a school teacher with presence can enter a noisy class room and it will become silent without them having to say anything. While somewhere down the school corridor, another teacher can shout and shout as much as they like and their voice remains ignored.

Presence can be both positive and negative, it can be welcoming or scary. It begins with confidence and self-respect and ends with posture and personal appearance.

While I was talking about authenticity and acquired behaviours with some colleagues recently,  I suggested that the best actors (no matter how shy in real life) can create bags full of presence on stage or behind the lens.  With it, they can improvise their way into our hearts and minds, making us believe that what they are experiencing is the real thing. But is the actor’s presence inauthentic? Surely if they communicating an important message which has a desirable result, can it ever be wrong? This leads me to another question.

When exactly are we acting? I personally like an element of controlled behavior, it’s what allows us to communicate with others more effectively. As long as we believe in what we say, what can be wrong with selecting how one is going to communicate it?  After all, isn’t that what the best leaders do?

Sure there are times when our emotions take over, it’s only natural.  But who wants a blubbering president every time they have to communicate tragic news?  I believe that we all suppress and amplify our thoughts to a certain extent, but only to obtain the results we desire. Well at least, I guess that’s what we do?

Sorry for all the questions.

Have a good week,