Archives for September 2012

Leadership and Professional Presence

In a world where each of us must work harder than ever to distinguish ourselves from the pack, professional presence is often the deciding factor as to whether or not we get the job, the promotion, or the client.  An intangible, professional presence can often be elusive, no matter how badly someone may want to understand or possess it.  Professional presence is actually a combination of a number of qualities and behaviors, and is an asset that is critical to success in any arena of business including the practice of law.  

In their book, Professional Presence (Adams Media; 2000), Susan Bixler and Lisa Scherrer Dugan make the case that confidence, capability and credibility are the building blocks to professional presence.  Those building blocks, along with excellent verbal and non-verbal communication skills, are also key to maintaining professional presence once it’s established.  It is important that those seeking career development cultivate these traits and skills. 

There is also a paradox in professional presence.  Someone can have a high level of confidence, be quite capable, have credibility in terms of skill and ability, and even be a well-versed communicator and still not be seen as a person in possession of professional presence.  There are two key elements that you must also possess for true professional presence.  These are authenticity and respect of others.  Without these elements, you can be seen as projecting the unwanted characteristics of arrogance, insecurity and untrustworthiness, which would certainly undermine the desired effects and outcomes.

Leaders have a four-prong role in regard to professional presence. First, encourage those you lead to understand and embrace the importance of professional presence.  Second, help them build confidence, capability and creditability by providing challenging work assignments and timely, concrete feedback.  Third, be sure that they have the opportunity to learn key skills in areas such as oral and written communication, and finally, help them get to know themselves and encourage them to feel comfortable respectfully expressing themselves with you, with other leaders and with clients.


Adapted from an article written by Debby Stone and Laura Biering and first published in The Complete Lawyer e-zine.