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Is your leadership presence a true reflection of who you really are?

3 min read


How do others experience you as a leader? According to psychologist Kathryn Cramer, every leader has a “signature presence,” a set of leadership assets that are as unique as your handwritten signature. Just as your autograph telegraphs who you are, so, too, do the daily actions that comprise your leadership presence.

Think about your signature for a moment: how has it morphed over time? As a young girl, my signature was a near carbon-copy of what I’d learned from my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Durr — a replica of what I’d been taught was the “correct” way to form the letters that comprised my name. As the years wore on, my signature began to reflect more of my personality and life’s experiences. No doubt, yours has as well.

Our handwriting also shows tell-tale signs of stress or distraction: just look at a document that was signed during a hospital stay or in a time of crisis. And, in much the same way that the act of writing is largely unconscious as we scrawl our name at the bottom of a credit card receipt, as leaders, we can be unaware of the messages we send to colleagues.

In her book “Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do,” Cramer writes about the difficulties of seeing ourselves as we really are. As difficult as this self-awareness may be, she says it’s imperative that leaders use a combination of personal reflection and asking for feedback. Cramer explains that when you understand the positive qualities that comprise your signature presence, you can then allow them to “shine through in all that you do.”

Here are five questions you can ask yourself and others to help determine those distinctive qualities that define your leadership.

  1. When I’m at my best, how would I describe myself?
  2. When I receive compliments, what specifically do people praise? Is there a theme to the praise?
  3. In what types of situations do I easily slip into “the zone” — meaning, with confidence and fluidity?
  4. Ask a colleague, “In what ways have I been a help to you?”
  5. Ask three people you know well: “Name five things about me that you can count on me to do.”

Is your leadership presence a true representation of the person you really are? All leaders have unique gifts they bring to bear in the workplace. Use these five questions to help you understand the person that others see so that you can lead with your own distinctive flair.

Interested in learning more about discovering your unique qualities as a leader? You can download Kathy Cramer’s free PDF resource “Your Leadership Life Map” here.

Career strategist Jennifer V. Miller is a former HR manager and corporate trainer who helps mid-career professionals chart the course for their next big “leap.” A self-described “professional opportunity cultivator,” Miller provides one-to-one and small group professional development coaching via her company SkillSource. She offers up tips for leading yourself and others at The People Equation.