HR & EDUCATION | Maneesh Sah, Singapore
Maneesh Sah

How to cultivate leadership presence in 2013?


While watching the trailer of the movie Gangster Squad over the holidays in Singapore, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Ryan Gosling. Though the movie was featuring hollywood veterans, Ryan’s performance stood out.

So what makes actors like Ryan Gosling and others like Michael Douglas and George Clooney stand out and become stars?

The answer in one word is ‘presence’. Presence is of two types-stage presence and leadership presence.

Why presence? Singapore has traditionally been the gateway to Asia for many multinationals requiring leaders based here to have regional roles overseeing businesses over multiple countries.

Due to the changing profile of the workforce, matrix reporting structures and a dynamic economic environment across Asia, success in 2013 will require these leaders to have the ability to succeed in multiple contexts.

The traditional command-and-control leadership style that fit companies in the past may not work. Instead, contextual leadership i.e. the ability to customise one’s style and approach to suit the culture or condition of the organisation in a given market will be the key driver of success.

And leadership presence can be a key component of this type of context driven leadership.

What is presence in the world of business? Presence is the quality of being an engaging personality in the minds of others. It is defined by the people around you.

People who have presence are assertive and empathic. In this age of information overload, it’s not enough to just be good in your job. You need to have both content expertise as well as presence expertise to stand out.

Presence is something which all successful leaders seek to cultivate to really stand out and gain influence. People seek out leaders with presence and look forward to collaborate with them on projects.

People also love to follow leaders who have presence. People who have presence are authentic, not pretentious. They are also not aggressive or submissive. They are tactful and don’t hesitate to give honest opinions.

Many leaders are media spokespersons as well. Presence can make journalists seek you out, publish your quotes and give them the 'box' treatment.

How can business leaders cultivate presence? Here are eight pointers on cultivating presence:

1. You can start by having a genuine interest in people. Focus on your audience and not yourself. It's also about not what you say but how you make the other person feel. If you make a person feel valued, they will value your opinion in return.

2. Develop an active interest in the world around you coupled with a wide variety of interests. It's about having the ability to understand and talk about many different things.

3. Be a good listener. Encourage conversation but let the other person lead it. Ask questions and seek understanding.

4. Think strategically, develop the ability to make connections, find meaning and discern trends.

5. Articulate a point of view and take a clear stand instead of just sharing data and information. Bring a fresh perspective and new insights into the conversation so that people make sense of what's happening around them and learn something new.

Deliver meaning, not just information. Develop the ability to talk in ‘sound bites’.

6. Be assertive and don’t be afraid of having tough conversations. Push back and confront people if required. Challenge the status quo and engage in healthy debate. Be provocative if it helps to drive home a point.

7. Show a vision of a better future. Empower people with tools and skills to achieve this future themselves.

8. Last but not least, learn to be comfortable with ambiguity and the idea that you might not have all the answers. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Maneesh Sah

Maneesh Sah

Maneesh is a regional marketing director for a global professional services company and also the Asia Pacific advisory board member in Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. He has lived in Singapore for over 10 years, has travelled extensively across Asia, the Pacific, and the Middle East, and contributed to the success of many diverse teams in the B2B space. In 2011, he received Brand Leadership Award for Excellence in Branding & Marketing conferred by CMO Asia.

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