The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others

The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others

by Kristi Hedges
The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others

The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others

by Kristi Hedges


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Everyone, regardless of position or personality, can strengthen their presence. The Power of Presence shows how.

When some people speak, everyone listens. When they need commitment to projects, others jump on board. They just seem to have that indescribable “presence”—a subtle magnetic field around them wherever they go that signals authority and authenticity and attracts disciples with ease. Wouldn’t it be incredible if doors opened as effortlessly for you? How amazing would it be if you could command the room like they do? You don’t have to wonder; you can make it happen!

Filled with strategies, exercises, and personal stories from years spent coaching leaders, communications expert Kristi Hedges explains how to:

  • Build relationships based on trust
  • Rid yourself of limiting behaviors
  • Embody the values you are trying to convey
  • Explore how others see you and correct misperceptions
  • Communicate in way that inspire

The key is to cultivate the communication aptitude, mental attitude, and unique leadership style needed to connect with and motivate others. Everyone recognizes a commanding presence when they see it, and soon they’ll see it in you!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814437858
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 01/10/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,075,364
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 2.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, specializing in executive communications. Her clients span the Fortune 500, government, non-profits, and privately held businesses. An in-demand speaker, she writes for, and has been featured in The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and on CNBC, BBC, and more. She is the author of The Power of Presence.

Read an Excerpt


For 20 years, presence has been not just my profession but also my passion. And it’s been a winding path that’s led me here.

In my career, I’ve been the person behind the leader. I’ve worn a few different hats: CEO coach, entrepreneur, public relations executive a corporate marketer, and political consultant. In each role, I’ve been privy to what goes on with leaders as they struggle to motivate a inspire, and impress audiences as small as one and as large as one million. I’ve seen the anxiety, heard the lack of confidence, throttled back runaway egos, and managed the stage fright.

Somewhere along the line I also became a leader, running my own company and being the one out in front. Because I’ve used my own techniques and advice on myself, I understand what succeeds and what falls short.

Politics, where I started my career, is an interesting training ground for leadership. In that world, a candidate’s presence is always top of mind. It’s discussed, polled about, massaged, and widely known to be the make-or-break factor. (Think Hillary Clinton in her 2008

run for president: Countless polls were taken and articles written about her inability to connect with voters and be likable. Democratic insiders worried it was her Achilles’ heel. It wasn’t until she showed her humanness by breaking down during an interview that her likability increased, as did her poll numbers.) Political strategists know that we connect individually with our leaders first, and only then can we grant the trust to give them our vote. A candidate’s background is scoured for personal stories with which voters can connect—

stories that break down perceived barriers between the candidate and constituents.

When I had the opportunity to segue into public relations, I took this experience from politics into the corporate world. In traditional public relations, the focus is 90 percent on the message and only 10

percent on the messenger. So I bit my tongue a lot in the beginning as a watched beautifully messaged speeches decimated by a CEO whose body language screamed, “I don’t totally believe what I’m saying!”

But the engine that fuels the PR world is content, and time and money is spent on developing stronger messages, writing press releases a and, nowadays, blogging and participating in social media.

The Secret Life of Struggling Communicators

As I made my way into the inner sanctums of companies as a PR

consultant, I found that a leader’s presence is often considered to be personal—something that is not discussed. Eventually, I started my own communications firm and worked with hundreds of CEOs

and leaders as a trusted adviser. Routinely, a company official would whisper that the CEO was a poor communicator or lacked presence.

No one wanted to deal with it head-on. Time-consuming and expensive workarounds were often employed, such as having paid spokespersons or keeping the CEO behind the scenes. At most, we could gain agreement for media training or a good speechwriter.

Everyone knew that while those solutions helped, something was still lacking.

Other times, I had the opportunity to tackle the issue directly with the CEO. I found that most leaders cared deeply about their own presence and how it affected their leadership ability. My clients’ communication challenges took different forms:

Some leaders were confident with their ability to communicate one-on-one, but not in groups. Others had a hard time connecting with individual executives a and many feared speaking in public. Because the idea of presence seemed like something that should come with a leader’s title, people were embarrassed by the shortcoming. It caused anxiety. I’ve met more than one CEO who relied on Ambien to combat the sleepless nights leading up to a board meeting or important presentation a and who then popped a Xanax to get through it.

I began developing tools to give my clients a process and structure to improve their presence. This skill building produced results a because my clients steadily improved their effectiveness. Yet often the results were hard-won or fleeting. As I learned years later, there was more to the story.

Concurrent with my work with leaders, my own experience as a leader was unfolding. I started my first company, one of the first

Washington, D.C.-based technology PR firms, at age 28. In less than two years, my business partner and I grew the business from a twoperson shop into a well-known agency with dozens of staff members and millions of dollars in revenues. We developed a reputation as a go-to agency for creating technology brands, with a focus on smart strategies and deep customer relationships. Our name got around so quickly that we turned away more business than we accepted—and we still had a three-month backlog! Within six months of opening our doors came the first of several acquisition offers. We experienced great success helping our clients achieve greatness, with front-row seats taking companies public or through industry-defining mergers and acquisitions that turned them into global brands.

On the rare occasions when I could slow down, it was only to feel a mix of disbelief and pride for what we had created from pure tenacity. We had succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I was honored as one of the top PR professionals in the country under the age of 35 and named a leading businesswoman in Washington, D.C.

Our firm took its place as one of the largest independent agencies and women-owned businesses in the D.C. area. That tenacity came in handy later, as the technology bubble burst, 9/11 happened, and we learned to navigate historically tough market conditions. You learn twice as much on the way down as you do on the way up—

and in the 10 years I had the firm, we had a few rides both ways.

Behind the scenes of those accomplishments, I faced a steep a seemingly endless learning curve. I was young and terribly inexperienced in leadership when we founded the firm, so I fumbled through a lot of situations where what was required of me surpassed my knowledge and ability. I used presence techniques on myself as a simultaneously developed them for clients. For me, the outside work with clients and business development came naturally, but a struggled with being the internal leader. I read leadership books a took courses, and joined a CEO development group. I failed a lot. I succeeded some, too. There were times I nailed my goal of inspirational and connected leadership. Keeping our team together and catapulting our company into a market-leader position a despite considerable market odds post-9/11, were huge personal accomplishments.

Then there were other times when the daily stresses of running a business and managing staff issues overwhelmed me. My intentions and my words were out of alignment, and everybody knew it. Frustration undercut my capability. Everyone—employees, clients, industry peers, media, lawyers, and advisers—seemed to need the best piece of me. Mental exhaustion was common from the pressure of having to be “on” in each interaction. I tried to learn from my mistakes and experiences as I went. My proudest moments were when my team members reached out to thank me for being a mentor a or used their experiences to go out and build even more success in their careers. That was my impetus to keep working on my own leadership presence.

A decade after I cofounded the company, I sold my share and became a leadership coach. I took some time to reflect and question what I knew to be true in my work with leaders. What is it about some people who can get others to follow with ease? What qualities do they possess that engender trust? How can presence be learned if one’s own skills aren’t enough? Why did I personally experience so much inconsistency?

As a coach, I began working with my clients’ thought patterns a preconceptions, and mental focus—their “inner” presence. I also developed an interest in neuroleadership, a burgeoning field that marries leadership with brain science and the study of human behavior.

It offers some remarkable findings about why people have a hard time changing and sustaining new behaviors.

Over the course of several years, I refined my approach and saw powerful, lasting shifts for clients. Through this experience I developed

I-Presence, a model that I have found to be the “secret sauce” of executive presence. It is equal parts communication aptitude, mental attitude, and authentic style. It combines a supportive inner mindset with the outer skills needed to create the natural, confident, consistent leadership presence we all seek.

The I-Presence Model to Inspire and Motivate Others

This book takes you through the three-step model of I-Presence (Figure I-1) and provides easy-to-use tools, exercises, and strategies to integrate the concepts into your everyday work. Some of these concepts will be new to you, while you may be familiar with others.

I’ve laid out the model in step form so that the concepts become actions.

And because we learn so well from the stories of others, you’ll also find examples of leaders who can demonstrate behaviors that impact presence. Furthermore, because we all struggle with so many of the same issues,

I’ve included numerous case studies of executives—developed as composites from leaders I’ve observed and worked with over the years—so you can see how others in your situation have managed.

My goals are to get you to reorient your beliefs about what makes a strong executive presence and rid yourself of limiting behaviors a while providing you with new ways of thinking and doing.

I-Presence is at once intentional, individual, and inspirational.


Your beliefs shape every aspect of your presence, from body language to the actions you choose to undertake. Therefore it is critical to get your head around what type of presence you want to demonstrate a the values you want to convey, and how that matches up (or doesn’t)

with how others currently perceive you. The first part of this book describes how to become more aware of your own presence and impact a and then provides useful tools for creating alignment between your intentions and how you want to be perceived.


We connect with individuals, not with the hierarchical concept of a leader or manager. Whether with employees, customers, investors a or the market at large, these connections drive business, loyalty, and career success. And counter to what you may believe, building these connections doesn’t involve having all the right answers or working harder than everyone else. In this part of the book, I’ll uncover the relationship-building secrets of successful leaders and the ways in which you, too, can form deep connections with others and build relationships that foster trust.


What tools are in your toolkit when you want to inspire others?

What’s the best way to address a group and get people excited? What do powerful communicators do that’s different? This final part of this book outlines the specific communication techniques that will improve your outer presence. I’ll cover a range of must-have executive presence skills, including powerful language, employee and team communications, motivating through change, visionary leadership a gaining eminence, and high-impact presenting to senior management a boards, employees, and public audiences of all sizes.

A Little Presence Goes a Long Way (or Leadership

for the Overwhelmed)

Perhaps you’ve already read a lot of leadership theory. New ideas always sound compelling, but if you are like me, you become overwhelmed because you can’t do everything. This book is designed to help you focus on and leverage your greatest potential as a leader—

your own presence. It challenges you to be more of yourself, rather than less.

And here’s the best part: Because your presence is integral to everything you do, even if you choose to work on only one lesson learned from this book you will have a positive result. I’ve written the book to make it easy for you to select concepts that resonate with you by including short takeaways at the end of each chapter, as well as leaving room for you to jot down ideas to try as you go.

Read on, figure out what works for you, and get the ball rolling.

Table of Contents


Preface ix

Introduction 1


Understanding and Managing Your Presence of Mind

CHAPTER 1 What Are You Thinking? 9

CHAPTER 2 Your Actions Are Speaking So Loudly I Can

Hardly Hear What You’re Saying 23

CHAPTER 3 Stopping the Negativity Loop 42

CHAPTER 4 Presence as Perception 56


Forging Strong Relationships

CHAPTER 5 Go Ahead, Trip Over Your Own Perfectionism 73

CHAPTER 6 Trust: The Ultimate Gatekeeper 89

CHAPTER 7 What You Can Learn About Emotional

Intelligence While Riding in the Elevator 107

CHAPTER 8 A Note to Emailphiles, CrackBerry Addicts a and TurboTexters 129


Communicating to Build and Motivate Followership

CHAPTER 9 Inspiring Change from the Brain Down 141

CHAPTER 10 From Vision to Visionary 161

CHAPTER 11 Declarations Create Possibilities 178

CHAPTER 12 Strategic Shock Value and Other Ways to Create Shining Moments 187

CHAPTER 13 Bringing It All Together: Presence in a Pinch 200

CHAPTER 14 Afterword 209

Acknowledgments 213

Appendix: Quick Hit I-Presence Tips 215

1. Presence Considerations for CEOs and

Senior Leaders 215

2. Presence Considerations for Entrepreneurs 217

3. Presence Considerations for Women 219

4. Presence Considerations for Job Seekers 220

5. Presence Considerations for Career Changers 222

6. Presence Considerations for Young Professionals 223

Notes 227

Index 231

About the Author 239

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