Projecting yourself as a leader isn’t always easy or intuitive. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re presenting yourself in a way that says, “I am the leader.”, and a lot of it has to do with your confidence. Confidence is not simply about how you feel; it affects how you look and come across to others. Fortunately, there are several techniques that you can use to improve your confidence and gain a better leadership presence.
Imagine Yourself Being “That” Leader
Pretending that you’re the person that makes you think, “I want to be that kind of leader,” gives your brain a frame of reference for how you want to come across. Think of a manager you’ve had in the past, a leader on social media, or even a character on TV or in a movie. How do they behave? Then, imagine yourself behaving that way. This includes things like standing up straight, dressing better, and responding to how those you respect might respond. Ask yourself, “How would that leader approach this?”. This does not mean you dress like them and quote infamous one-liners, it means you are identifying qualities of that person that you would like to display. The point is when you visualize yourself as the confident and successful leader you want to be, you’re training your brain, and you’ll begin projecting a more powerful image. When you feel your confidence slipping, visualize yourself as that leader you want to be and use positive words to build yourself up.
Create Positive Self-Talk
Sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves that we become our own worst enemy. That voice in our head might not let you forget a past mistake or try to convince you of a concerning future that has no evidence of coming true. It can be difficult to get the positive message track to enter our consciousness, but it is important to remind ourselves that we control that voice. One helpful way of breaking this pattern is to interfere with it and replace it. When you catch yourself in negative self-talk, stop yourself right in your track and choose an alternative. You can try to play the music that inspires you and sing or hum along and use the melody to uplift your frame of mind. Maybe try thinking of a few past achievements and give yourself kudos. You might even try starting an activity that will offer a satisfying outcome like painting or cooking.
Make Eye Contact
Confident people look people in the eye; people who aren’t confident don’t unless there is a cultural reason. This doesn’t mean you’re staring at people and making them uncomfortable. Find that comfortable level of engaging in eye contact. Try focusing more on the color of their eyes, rather than concentrating on their pupil. If you need to break eye contact you can look between the eyes, or around the eyes, but try not to look down or over their shoulder. Also, it is important to note that in some cultures, it can be considered rude to look people directly in the eye. So, make sure that you know your audience.
Yes, dance! While this one might get you feeling ridiculous, dancing is a great way to build yourself up. Not only are there the benefits of physical exercise are but we also know that music can change our mood for the better. Partnering listening to music and adding a little shimmy shake can get your dopamine going and help boost your confidence.
Know Your Stuff
Your confidence can’t be a front, you need to back that confidence up by knowing your stuff. If you are prepared and sure of your facts, you’ve got a better chance of projecting yourself as a capable leader. If you’re unsure about something, you’re better off confidently stating how you will approach this unknown rather than faking your way through it. You might try giving yourself some time to regroup by letting others know you would feel more comfortable if you had some time to think or do more research and then letting them know when you’ll get back to them.
Practice makes perfect!
Rehearsing tough conversations or important speeches with someone or in front of the mirror can help you come across more confident and help you tackle any underlying fear of failure. Don’t forget to imagine yourself succeeding and train your brain on what success will look like so it knows how to respond at the moment.
Read Inspiring Biographies and Autobiographies
Every leader should have a toolkit of stories that inspire. Stories of past challenges that were overcome to achieve success, stories about what people have learned by taking the road less traveled, or the road of hard knocks. Reading inspiring biographies and autobiographies not only adds to your toolkit but will also remind you that everyone has ups and downs and reading their experiences will help reinforce that concept within yourself and those you work to inspire.
Be Thankful and Show Appreciation
No matter how bad a circumstance or situation, there is always somebody worse off. In fact, when given the opportunity to take on someone else’s problems over our own, we choose our own. When you acknowledge this by being thankful, you build on your positive mindset. But, even more, is that when you are thankful and show appreciation others notice, and that helps you build relationships. Relationships are the most valuable asset you as a leader can have and you must be prepared to devote some time to them.
Do Something for Yourself Every Week
Leaders don’t often get external recognition, so it is important that we recognize and reward ourselves in a way that feels real. You really do deserve it! Find a way to celebrate even the smallest accomplishments by giving yourself a tangible reward that you would only get in celebration, and celebrate often!