Leadership presence for women is not about standing tall and smiling—
To develop powerful leadership presence—women have to get beyond this pretty model approach and learn to project power that is strong, engaging, and authentic.
Here are the 3 habits women need to project power:
You can’t just smile, smile, smile…
Women have been taught to smile. As girls, as teenagers, as women—women are encouraged to put on a happy face. The trouble with putting on a happy face is that it encourages plastic smiles that are pasted on unnaturally.
Try smiling non-stop in front of a mirror for a minute—feel the tension. Now consciously relax your face. Notice the difference. If you keep your expression fixed you are putting up a barrier. If you let your face relax, you will allow good feelings to flow through. You will come across as warm and open—not cold a callous.
To project leadership presence, women have to think of their smiles not as shields but as openings.
Give up the “up speak.”
Women have a tendency to end sentences with “up speak”—not down. While this may be old news, in 1972 Robin Lakoff recognized this pattern in Language and Woman’s Place. This pattern prevails today.
The power pattern for American speaking is horizontal—a flat sound that ends down—think of walking across a platform and taking a step down.
Ending each sentence with a period or exclamation mark. When women end their sentences up they end with a question mark. To project leadership presence, women have to get into statement mode—ending with a down beat not an uptick.
Give up the machine gun delivery.
Women who have a staccato rhythm are often perceived as shrill and sharp like rattatat. Because women tend to have high pitched voices, that rattatat is on the upside sharp and clear, but on the downside sharp and cutting. To project leadership presence, women have to shift from staccato to smooth—from articulating consonants to stretching out vowels.
To project leadership presence, women have to get beyond cosmetics and focus on control—particularly self-control.