One of the most significant qualities to cultivate in leadership is presence. A form of engagement with people that builds awareness, and an active ability to get to the core of an issue, a climate, a process, and a relationship. It fosters mutuality, in understanding.

Presence has a pervading aspect of quiet confidence. A knowingness. About what is happening, internally, and in the environment. To step back a little, in observation, grounded in mindful attention.

And sometimes that’s not easy in a torrent of activity.

Yet, it builds, credibility, in the management of practicality.

When I was leading one major integration, of several businesses into one single function, presence became a critical element.

Four organisations with similar purposes, different in culture and detail of policy and service, industry, and customer experience, operating across numerous stakeholder communities, were being merged into one entity. Policies, legislation, service obligations, practices, staffing, locations were all part of the considerations. What you would typically find in any  merger or integration…great opportunity, and numerous challenges.

I reflected, at the time of embarking on the project, the analogy from my school history lessons, about the relative speed of change between Britain and the US during the Industrial Revolution. It felt that big to me. The US won the race. Britain had the challenge of deconstructing and rebuilding whereas the US was starting from a greenfields perspective.

It is much easier to begin afresh, then it is to rebuild and rethink. I knew I was embarking on a big undertaking.

And Presence, in a rebuild and rethink, is a particularly relevant quality.

As a way of practically cultivating my own presence with that workplace integration, I adopted three things

  1. I meditated, and reflected. Daily. Re-centering my own clarity in managing processes and directives. This included walks at lunchtime for fresh air. Pauses for breath when necessary. Wellness activities that kept my mind alert and active. And keeping myself on top of what was essential work, and non essential busyness, in the undertaking.
  2.  Establishing relationships with each of my direct reports, communicating regularly. Paying attention to their perspectives, subject and service area expertise. Listening. Having robust conversations on where and how to proceed. And agreements on what actions were next necessary. Facilitating their leadership.
  3. Being available for my teams. Walking the floors. Splitting my time in several locations. Getting to know them. And what was practical from their perspective. Understanding their commitment in the undertaking. Communicating directly. About corporate directions that would affect them, personally and professionally. Taking questions. Being authentic when I was unable, at any point, to answer them, committing to get back to them. Paying attention.

The integration took nearly three years of a combination of gradual and fast paced prioritised action. Including cross functional teams that achieved the efficiencies that were projected. It was a substantial undertaking.

As you comprehend that

  • all organisations have people as their central operation
  • all organisations have people that they serve, and
  • that you too are a part of the people of the organisation

you may wish to consider how you can affect leadership presence. In a practical sense. For sustenance, enjoyment, and wholeness, as you lead your team into it’s next stage of development.

If you, or your people, would like further assistance, I offer Loving Leadership coaching as part of the suite of Loving Psyche coaching programs. It may be an ideal way for you to cultivate your own style of practical leadership presence.

SaraSwati Shakti

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