Last week I suggested that charisma and the energy associated with it are vital tools, not just for big-stage political and business leaders, but for “everyday leaders.” I’ve been reading outside the leadership field for insight and came across a wonderful exercise in a book called Stage Presence by Jane Goodall. I’ll quote it below. But, before you read it, imagine what your “stage” is. When I shared the exercise with my wife Jennifer, she lit up and shared her “stage,” saying “that’s exactly how I thought as I walked into court” (as a federal prosecutor.) Where’s your leadership stage? Maybe it’s a presentation – sales, investment, church or classroom. But maybe it’s less one-way: it’s a staff meeting table, a meeting with your business and life partner, your child’s teacher, or your adolescent child. Picture yourself entering that “stage,” and imagine this exercise Goodall shares from acting teacher Julie Holledge:
“The first exercise I do . . . involves them walking onto a stage from the wings, finding the strongest position on the stage to stop, surveying the auditorium, and saying ‘I own this space’. The rest of the class sits in the auditorium and responds . . . ‘yes you do’ . . . or ‘no you don’t.’ The trick of the exercise is for the actor to control time, relax and achieve perfect physical alignment.” [emphasis added]
Are you getting a thumbs-up? Do you own your space?
What’s key to your getting the “yes you do” own the space from those who are with you? Unlike a solo actor, your “audience” is not thinking about you; they’re doing what we all do; they’re thinking about themselves, their work, ideas, and feelings. So, the cool thing is you can walk onto stages this week, with only you aware of yourself and of your efforts to “own the space.”
What will you think of? I’m drawn to two tips.
Your body is your vehicle, so where do you want it to take you? Literally. Next to the boss, across from her, in a spot of sunlight? Or is it in your child’s bedroom for a discussion? Standing or sitting? Face-to-face or at an angle? How do you command attention by being fully, physically present. Interesting questions, aren’t they?
And how will you gather yourself up from the inside? Do you believe you “own this stage?” Jennifer in court began by controlling her own mind. As she walked in she was reminding herself that she belonged: she had prepared, she represented the United States, she knew the court rules, and so that jury could trust her.
Do you belong? And how will you gather up your presence?
I’d love to hear how you practice presence this week to
Lead with your best self