"A Big Part Of Leadership Is Just Being Present."

I've heard this a few times in my career.

Okay. Not just a "few." Quite a bit. And... Okay... Many of those times I "heard" it, it was coming from my own mouth. So I didn't invent the saying. But you can believe I subscribe to it greatly.

"Being present" doesn't necessarily mean you are physically present. While that is one of the best ways to activate your leadership role, I do believe one can lead from a distance. Provided, of course, that you are available to your team/organization the same as you would be if you were in the same location as they are.

Heck, I've worked with many "leaders" in my time who were physically present, but really not mentally present.  So location can make it easier, but it can also not mean a damn thing.

No. A lot of "being present" is being available to listen. Listen and hear what someone is saying to you... Whether it's a client or a team member. They are sharing something with you, and you are listening. And if possible, you are saying words - after they are done talking - that do one of the following:

  • Console them
  • Validate them
  • Inspire them
  • Coach/guide them

They should not be words that berate them, or belittle them, or make them feel useless. There are ways to provide constructive guidance that illustrate what they may have missed opportunity-wise, but help guide them to troubleshoot or solve a situation.

But the first step is to listen.

Why am I going on about this? Well, because I have worked with a number of "start up" companies in the past few years. Either through consulting and short-term gigs where there was a lack of presence by the people who were the ultimate decision makers. And in a few cases, there was a lack of presence of direct decision makers who should be around but aren't. So in a couple of cases, it was me providing the leadership.

"Well, duh. Wasn't that what you were hired to do, Heather?"

Yes. But there is only so much I can do to inspire/motivate/guide a team to do if I am only empowered to listen and make small changes - not empowered to do anything significant. People like working on a team with me because they know I will roll up my sleeves and do the work with them if needed. They'll stick around to work with me because they know that I'll give them the liberty to try new things and push our product further. I've found in my time that employees are incredibly loyal to specific leaders who make them feel empowered and value their contribution. Even if you are paying them less than a competitor is willing to.

Being a leader isn't difficult. Listen. Respond. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with them.