When you walk through someone’s door or they walk through yours, your image and presence have an immediate impact. In the case of Queen Mary of Denmark, whilst still a commoner, her first impression caught the eye of a Prince.
Although her natural attractiveness was enough to capture the now, King Frederik’s eye, to truly evolve and become the Queen and leader she is today she needed to harness and demonstrate leadership presence.
As a member of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) and in my work with leaders to power up their personal brand presence we often refer to the ABCs of image which are appearance, behaviour and communication. It’s a topic that has been around a long time. I remember “back in the day” learning about these traits at what was called modelling and deportment schools. It is also how Queen Mary first started her 20-year journey.
Creating her leadership presence, she harnessed these characteristics with intelligence to create an impactful personal brand – albeit a Royal one to have influence with others.
To have a positive effect on your audience and portray the core components of leadership presence here are some tips we can learn from Queen Mary of Denmark.
L is for the LOOK of a leader. How you appear through your dress and style. Are you putting consistent intention into your image and visual signature?
It’s not just your business logo that needs to look good...it’s the people in an organisation that represent the company brand and that person is you. No matter what your role in the organisation is – whether small business entrepreneur, CEO or mail room manager, you are representing the brand.
Leadership style also needs to be congruent with the work you do. Mary is a Royal figure and dresses appropriately for her role and even on “dress down” days her look is still very dignified. She takes a very active interest in Danish and Australian fashion and is noted on the world stage as a best-dressed, fashionable leader.
If you are a leader in a non-profit sector, dealing with many volunteers, you might wear simple, smart and well-tailored clothing rather than very casual or you may look like the volunteer rather than the leader. Likewise, if you are dealing with high paying clients in a professional environment, your look needs to say credible, polished and looking like an expert.
Combine what is appropriate for your environment with awareness of your audience to create a convincing and compelling look.
E is to ENGAGE as a leader. Becoming an engaging leader is about connecting emotionally. How do you connect with others through emotion? Is your communication and presentation style attracting, inspiring, supporting and influencing others? Can you portray leadership authority through clear, compelling and concise communication?
Being able to inspire an audience through delivering a clear speech and engage through storytelling is a vital characteristic of leadership presence.
You may not need to become fluent in another language to deliver a speech or engage your followers but public speaking is a skill that can and should be learned and practiced at every opportunity. Sometimes the best intentions of business leaders to take to the floor and say a few words can do more harm than good.
A is ACT as a leader. Everything you say, do and the way you behave speaks volumes about your personal brand. Is your body language and non-verbal communication such as eye contact and handshake supporting you or subtracting from your essence? Gravitas is one criteria of leadership presence and is really about awareness of acting appropriately and conducting yourself with dignity. Awareness of correct professional behaviour, manners and charismatic engagement with others is the top trait of those who stand out as leaders.
For some gravitas may seem like an elusive quality. But is it unattainable – I don’t think so. It can be obtained by practising self-awareness and some self-analysis on your personality traits and professional behaviour. Just like Mary, she really was a natural but there was certainly some upskilling on her behalf.
How do you develop relationships with your clients or conduct yourself in social situations? Are you composed, confident and conversational? I’m sure you’ve seen many examples of people who have had too much to drink at work events and regretted things done or said. Perhaps not good gravitas.
You are your brand and how your project yourself is vitally important to the success of your business or career. You’ve no doubt invested a lot of time, effort and money into setting up your own business or developing your career – why not invest some time and effort into your self-brand – after all, you’re worth it!
D is DISCERN. A discerning leadership brand is to understand how you come across and practice insight into your own behaviour. Do a personal brand audit to understand your positive qualities and strengths and get feedback from others to understand their perceptions of you and your brand.
What do people say about you, how do they perceive you? Pay attention to how others describe you when they introduce you and how they treat you. Are you described as fun loving, compassionate, professional or creative? Do these descriptions align with your values and what you stand for? Do people accurately describe what you do? Is that coming across clearly?
A discerning person is someone who is a good judge of quality. Can you observe and consider the pronounced and subtle characteristics of those leaders that stand out and shine? Are they in the public eye, or memorable in some way? Do they always have a considered viewpoint to put across at meetings or a public speaking event? As a leader Queen Mary demonstrates her values and beliefs through the various charities and causes she supports.
E is to EVOLVE. Continuous learning and application of leadership traits will help you grow and evolve into your potential over time. Dale Carnegie’s breakthrough book, How to Win Friends and Influence People was one of the first manifestos on developing your potential and presence. Numerous books of course have been written over the years, and programs have been created where you can learn more and apply to your own professional development.
Now I am not a “leadership” speaker as such, my topics of brand, image, presence and interpersonal communication are seen as “soft” skills however, to me those demonstrating excellence in these traits is a leader who stands out – just like Queen Mary.
R is RESONATE as a leader. Actors are taught to command a stage and audience through projecting a clear, resounding voice. Tune in to the sound of your voice. Monotone, dull delivery, excitable chatter, mumbling or sentences ending in upward inflections won’t assist in conveying verbal clarity and conciseness of a leader.
According to oft quoted research by Albert Mehrabian, we tune into sound more than the actual words that are spoken. He is recognised for the communication formula known as the 7%-38%-55% Rule, for the impact of words, tone of voice and body language. These areas are often summarized as the three V’s – verbal, vocal, visual.
According to this research – 38% of a presentation is vocal impact – tonality, volume, rhythm and pace. How accurate this is I think often depends on the listener. For instance when I listen to podcasts or webinars – the words are definitely important but if the delivery is dull or monotone I tune out straight away. I’m not a patient listener. I’m more visual. If I see someone speak, even though the sound of their voice is not rich or exciting, if the content interests me then I will tune in for longer. A speaker with stage presence and vocal resonance is captivating.
You may tune into voice and presentations in another way. However, to improve your vocal tone – tune in to the sound of your own voice. Record yourself while reading, presenting or talking to someone. Pay attention.
If you are delivering a speech, the strong and effective use of your voice is one of the most powerful presentation tools you can possess. Queen Mary of course has developed a beautifully cultured and resonant voice.
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Sue Currie is an image entrepreneur who guides and empowers business leaders and entrepreneurs to have “Spotlight Confidence”. She is passionate about helping professionals elevate their personal and professional brand through her speaking, coaching and training programs on Self-image, Style and Speaking Skills, providing a multi-faceted approach to gain high transformation for her clients.
Image credit: Getty Images
Leader concept: Sarah Brummitt