President Zelensky has inspired the world with his presence.
“We are in Kyiv,” he announced in a video from his phone. “We are all here, protecting our independence, our country, and it will continue that way.”
When the U.S. offered to evacuate him, he said, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Is he extraordinary? Yes.
But think again if you believe this quality called presence is something you either have or don’t have, something available to extraordinary leaders, but not to you and me.
Although Zelensky looks and sounds confident, you have no idea, really, about his inner state.
He could be terrified—who wouldn’t be? He could be gulping down vast quantities of industrial strength tranquilizers—who could blame him? He’s the enemy’s #1 target, he could die any moment.
You can act confident without feeling confident; you can stand tall without being tall. (Zelensky is 5’7″. Similar to Winston Churchill.)
Put another way, presence is not a thing. It’s a verb, not a noun. Zelensky doesn’t have presence, he acts with it. And so can you.
You’ve probably heard that Zelensky used to be an actor; he played a president before actually becoming one, a month after his TV show ended.
That may remind you of President Reagan. “There have been times in this office,” Reagan once said, “when I’ve wondered how you could do the job if you hadn’t been an actor.”
But we’re not talking here about professional acting; we’re talking about acting as if.
Suppose you decide to become a lawyer. You go to law school, but when you graduate, you still don’t feel like a lawyer. You feel like someone pretending to be a lawyer, like an imposter.
But you keep acting like a lawyer, until one day, you no longer need to pretend.
“If you want a quality,” advised psychologist William James, “act as if you already had it.”
Acting as if is what you do each day when the alarm goes off and you struggle out of bed, half asleep, nowhere near ready for work.
You need to suit up.
That’s the secret of “presence.” It sounds like an inner state—but no one knows your inner state. People infer “presence” based on how you act.
How do you act?
Tip: If you act confident enough times, eventually the feeling will show up.
© Copyright 2022 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
P.S. Increase your presence. 3 ways I can help you & your team.
1) Virtual workshop—I’ve been leading Dynamic Speaking, a four-session course for small teams. We practice how to get heard, get remembered, and get results.
2) Webinars—e.g. The Power of Presence; Resilience @ Work . . . Click here for all 12 programs.
3) 1-1 Coaching—Got an important, upcoming communication? I’ll help you with design (what to say) and/or delivery (how to say it with presence). Click here for details
P.P.S. There are at least 10 actions that contribute to presence. For more, check out You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World.
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PAUL HELLMAN consults & speaks internationally on how to make your point—fast, focused, powerful.