December 13, 2017

From where does personal presence come?

TeamWe’ve all experienced people who have a powerful presence, whether we’ve come across them individually ourselves or just observed them as public figures. Indeed, we may well have that quality to a degree—even a considerable degree—ourselves. Perhaps we might like to strengthen it, or helps others strengthen it.

Presence is a key competent of natural leadership after all—the ability to make something useful happen without necessarily having the explicit authority that might appear to be needed. It’s also a key component of influence in relationships, both personal and professional.

The question is…

What are the key ingredients of presence?

Wisdom, attention to others, inner peacefulness, the capacity to absorb input, resilience, flexibility, needlessness, the ability to sense, the capacity to care… could be some of them. Perhaps being in touch with an inner strength and an openness to go with it is the key.

And how can these ingredients be developed?

By gathering knowledge, by accepting what “is” (i.e. what is unchangeable), by owning what we manifest and, therefore, can change, by seeing clearly, by overcoming our ego and identifying with our Self, by acting with courage and belief…

What do you think? What else is needed?

Do you know enough to not know?

Woman reflectingHow much knowledge do you need to have before it feels OK to say you don’t know?

Seems like a paradox, doesn’t it?

If we know quite a bit about something, we probably have a good idea just how much we don’t know. And we have some authority.

If we don’t know that much, often it seems we need to state what we do know—to gain credibility, mostly.

So it can seem a wise thing when we don’t know.

That may mean we have quite a bit of knowledge.

…and are worth consulting.

Is today’s wisdom tomorrow’s foolishness?

Audience applauding, perhaps taken in by the speakerPersonally, I’m very much in favour of going to the source, and seeking out others’ experience, especially when their achievements are significant. It seems to me they’re worth paying attention to and I take some convincing we know better than they do.

I value today’s wisdom.

And yet…

Not everyone seems to see it like that. Some people are invariably suspicious of prominent sources of knowledge and tend to dismiss it as “theory,” and expect it soon to be revealed as irrelevant or just plain wrong.

Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps today’s wisdom is tomorrow’s foolishness.

Or perhaps it is of timeless value after all.

How do you tell?

Someone has the answer: The question is do you want it?

Group of people talkingOr would you rather keep searching yourself?

It’s tempting to say “Of course we want the answer if someone else has it”?

But do we really?

Sometimes the loss of face, the embarrassment, or the hurt to our ego is too much to bear, and we avoid seeing what’s offered.

Of course it’s good to look for our own answers.

Sometimes though…

We’ll get a better outcome if we put our pride to one side and accept someone else’s wisdom.

That’s a kind of personal mastery, and an act of an inspirational leader.

Do you solve a problem when you can?

Exhausted and frustrated woman at a computerIf you’re anything like me, your first reaction to the question might be ”Of course I solve a problem when I can.”

But do you?

Do you always make the choice to deal with an issue when you have the means to? Or do you sometimes leave the problem because actually it’s easier to be working against something, to have something to push on, or even something to blame.

If somehow—and I know this may be unlikely—you could eliminate all your problems and be free of them completely, would that be a comfortable place or an uncomfortable one? What would you do with your freedom then?

Do you sometimes avoid adopting a simple solution and continue looking for a more complex one that’s somehow more justifying?

I know I do.

But the path of personal mastery, wisdom, and growth means choosing to solve our problems when we can, and moving on.

Your “power to”, do you use it?

Woman reflectingWe all have power to achieve things or to be a certain way, possibly more than we’re comfortable admitting. As Marianne Williamson said, “it’s not our darkness but our light that most frightens us.”

This is quite a different thing from “power over” other people which might come to us through formal authority. “Power to” comes from our presence and indeed our personal mastery, our sense of purpose and our authenticity, our wisdom.

Abraham Maslow and others would say it’s our “power to” rather than our “power over” that counts in the end.

The more “power to” others perceive us to have, the more we will be able to help them. They will believe in us more than they will believe in the power of the problem they are trying to overcome. Denying our own “power to” and shrinking away from it doesn’t serve the people we might help.

Here’s the thing…

What do you choose?

Do you use your “power to” as a force for good, or do you hide from it a little (or a lot) and diminish what you can do for the world and for yourself.

It’s a choice.

How do you sit comfortably with your own power?

Feedback is not a negotiation

St Pauls with protestors camped outsideThe protestors have achieved a great deal of publicity. Some of them, without intending to, have caused a religious institution (St Paul’s Cathedral in London) to lose its balance (about whose side it’s on), with senior figures resigning.

The protestors are unclear about what exactly they want. Some lobbyists for the other side (the financially greedy, as the protestors see it) ask us to dismiss the protests because “they have no clear demands; no alternative to offer.”

The lobbyists see the situation as a negotiation: “Tell us what you want and we’ll give up some of what we have” (but largely carry on as before).

When someone says they don’t like what we’re doing, it is tempting to say “what do you want me to do instead?” and make a negotiation out of it.

But really we’re getting feedback, and it’s up to us to change our behavior when someone says they don’t like it. That’s the only way to grow as a person.

If we want to be accepted (by ourselves as much as anyone else), WE need to work out what to do with the feedback.

We imagine the targets of the Occupy protestors’ ire care nothing about being accepted. Do you think that’s true?

At St Paul’s, it seems to be taking someone of the Bishop of London’s wisdom to bring stability to the situation. (Dr Richard Chartres impressed many with his address at William and Kate’s wedding.)

So what’s different about the Bishop?

Well, I suggest he has a particular balance that comes from dealing with opposing ideas and reconciling them, and, I suspect, accepting feedback.

How do we know this?

Because Dr Richard has a certain charisma, a presence; and these two things go together: reconciling opposing forces within ourselves increases our appeal to other people. Do this as a lifelong effort and you have a person with the personal authority of the Bishop of London.

And that’s why feedback is best just accepted, and not negotiated away.

And why reconnecting the financial and the ethical will work out well for those that most need to.

Are you stuck in other people’s comfort zones?

To grow, we need to step out of our comfort zone; to accept we don’t know everything; to take a risk.

We’re familiar with that.

But had it occurred to you that sometimes we may hold back because our actions, or intended actions are a frightening thought for someone else? We may be influenced by their fears, even if they’re not involved at all and have quite a different context from us and so a different view of the risks. Our conversation with them is enough for them to express their fears; fears they would have if they were taking the action. If we’re not careful, we moderate what we do to fit their comfort zone.

Make sure it’s your own comfort and discomfort that’s guiding you and not the fears of the uninvolved.