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Growth Leadership Personal Development

Why Cultivating Presence Matters as a Leader

As we embark on a new year, it’s a great time to reflect on what it means to be a leader in 2022. One of the key challenges I’ve observed is that many execs are struggling with the need to be present — especially at a time when so many employees are signing up for “The Great Resignation” and choosing to leave their jobs.

Companies are left struggling to find great talent. As a result, it’s more important than ever to view employees as individuals, to be sensitive to their unique needs, to pay attention and to listen to them carefully, to validate them, and to honor what’s most important to them — in order to attract and retain your best people.

Presence is perhaps one of the greatest skills you can master as a leader in two directions. First and foremost is that it allows you to be there fully for those around you as they seek your guidance and observe how you show up. And secondly, it allows you to be be yourself more fully and authentically in the moment. When you do convey that presence, people respond as they feel seen, heard and valued. And at the same time, you operate at peak performance levels yourself when you operate from your gifts and talents in real time.

Your relationships with others improve by default. Being fully present allows for richer, more meaningful connections that foster trust, credibility and loyalty because others sense you have their back and genuinely care about doing right by them. You’re fully engaged, switched on, and aren’t focused on conflicting agendas. It turns out your presence is just about the greatest gift you can give to those around you – including your employees, co-workers, shareholders, friends, family and others.

During my many years at Apple, I had some really great bosses. I can recall how meaningful it was when I announced my engagement that my boss at the time made a big deal out of pausing the meeting we were in to acknowledge the news. His reaction was more that of a caring uncle vs a boss at work, and he subsequently arranged a party to celebrate this important milestone in my life.

I don’t see that in the workplace much these days (or even back then); it meant a great deal to me, and it engendered even greater loyalty to him as a leader (and to the company!) than I already felt.

On a personal note, I was at a family gathering awhile back; an important one — my aunt’s 80th — and I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my immediate or my extended family, so I was really looking forward to it. I’m so used to operating with my To Do list and unfinished tasks to take care of in my head. My mom had to remind me to focus on being present and in the moment. In fact, we went into a book store near the event, and she bought me a book entitled “1001 Ways to Live in the Moment.”

Of course I embraced it immediately; how perfect. It was an act of grace that the book showed up at that moment and re-framed the importance of being present. As my mentor Alan Cohen is fond of saying, “you can change the world by the power of your being.”

So as we kick-off this new year, consider what you can do as a leader to be more present to your own employees and teams. What can you do to make each individual feel genuinely valued, validated and appreciated? Your presence will pay off in terms of allegiance, increased productivity, greater teamwork and increased retention. And it will go a long ways towards fostering long-term trusted relationships that may extend well beyond your current workplace and throughout your entire career.