Transformation Perspectives Series 07

Leadership Part 2: What are the levers for building a stronger presence as a leadership personality?


In the previous article entitled: “Leadership Part 1: Do you have a clear understanding of your leadership impact, and what levers can you use to increase this impact?” we developed a roadmap of the different dimensions of management impact, to enable us to identify possible levers. The four dimensions presented in the article dovetail neatly with the three cornerstones (I – We – It). This article focuses on the first dimension: Personal presence. 

Personal presence. This is the impact that you, as an individual, have on other people – whether this is due to a high level of emotional maturity coupled with the ability to regulate your own emotions, to your personal integrity with regard to your own consciously espoused values, or to a highly authentic manner of self-presentation. In order to successfully drive forward the development of a team, a department or a whole organization, both the CEO and management team need to have a well developed awareness of these dimensions. Nevertheless, most managers automatically assume that the decisions they make have been reached freely and independently, with due consideration – little do they realize that very often their actions are a reflection of their socialization context, and of subconsciously acquired interpretive models. The way in which we tend to “think inside the box” without even realizing it is captured in the following witticism: “I don’t know who discovered water, but I’m sure it wasn’t a fish.” This illustrates, in a humorous way, how hard it is to actually be aware of a system when we are inside it.

This poses the question of how you can become more aware of both your inner drivers and motivations and the impact you have on others, and use this to enhance your personal presence.  

Considering this, we can identify three primary levers:

  • Developing awareness (of yourself and the impact you have on others). This comprises two elements: firstly “self-awareness” in the sense of being aware of your own emotions and being able to control and adapt them (emotional awareness and regulation), and secondly, awareness of the impact that you, as a person, have on other people. In the case of self-awareness, as long as your responses are triggered by external factors – generally situations, people or certain behaviors, i.e. as long as your decision-making powers are overridden by the stress responses “fight, flight or freeze”, your actions will be automatic, and you will find yourself operating in “survival mode” without even realizing it – which severely limits your ability to access your own inner resources. These stress responses in turn trigger physiological responses in your body, stimulating production of adrenalin and noradrenalin and impairing frontal cortex function, which greatly reduces your ability to think and act rationally. In the business context, of course, “flight” doesn’t mean running away in the literal sense. More common than physical flight (e.g. leaving the room before the conversation has ended) is mental flight (cognitive and emotional avoidance of contact). On top of this, it is highly probable that stressed-out managers will also trigger stress responses in their employees, thus unwittingly creating an environment in which people see no choice but to respond reactively to the challenges facing them. If, on the other hand, you are aware of your own impact, then you will be clearly aware of these mechanisms, and you will be able to control to a considerable extent the impact that you have on the people around you. Self-reflection, regular feedback and certain meditative and contemplative exercises can help you develop your emotional maturity and awareness of your own impact.
  • Developing your inner compass. This means being consciously aware of your own values and priorities, as well as your purpose, and developing and enhancing this awareness to reach a perspective which is not limited by a narrow focus on your own needs and safety. As well as enabling you to inspire others by adopting a clear alignment, this also gives you a sense of direction, helping you to find your way in a world of increasing complexity. Only by integrating your purpose and consciously adopted values into your daily routines and habitual actions do they become tangible and complete; over time this leads to the true embodiment of your personal values and leadership.    
  • Being more authentic (tangibility, taking a position). This refers to your ability to be yourself without any dissimulation, and dare to make yourself vulnerable by openly showing your rough edges. Being authentic means that your thoughts, feelings, actions and words are aligned with each other. It takes courage to be authentic – this value, which fuels every personal transformation, can only be put into practice externally.

 The desire to be authentic and the courage needed for this also require you to be aware of your own “operating system” – i.e. your values and priorities, your beliefs and your personal purpose – so as to enhance your inner compass, and follow it resolutely. From these two elements, authenticity and awareness (of yourself and your impact), we can define a matrix in which we can order the broad categories of leadership styles and the behaviors associated with them.

Graph: Personal leadership styles




  • Managers who lack both authenticity and awareness will behave in a predominantly defensive manner because they lack the courage to live their values and convictions, as well as the awareness needed to be able to regulate their own emotions. A low level of awareness favors a survival instinct with a narrow focus on your own ego, prompting you to view all unforeseen external events as a threat.
  • Managers who are authentic but lack awareness will still be constantly subject to triggers and will instinctively respond in a reactive way to external events that they perceive as a threat, because despite their authenticity, they do not have the awareness needed to regulate their own emotions.
  • Managers who have good awareness but lack the authenticity needed to make their position and attitude transparent will, in the end, be guided in their behavior by a focus on safety – an attitude which does not lead to growth.
  • Only managers who are truly authentic and have good awareness will develop a strong presence and act in a way that generates impact, thus maximizing their existing potential and will be recognized as leaders.


In the next leadership article we will take a closer look at the second dimension: Direction and purpose.


Pierre Bachmann and Dr. Thomas Gartenmann

This is part of the Transformation Perspectives Series by