What does a powerful person look like? How do you know if someone is powerful? Maybe you envision the trappings of power – a seat on a high platform, a perfectly tailored suit, a private jet. And we do indeed use those cues to help assess whether someone is powerful. But there is something hollow about them, because they don’t really tell us anything about the person. Once you remove the embellishments, will the person still seem powerful?
In order to be effective, a business leader must not only be powerful but also seem powerful. A leader’s ability to inspire others and to drive his or her agenda depends in part on others’ recognition and acknowledgement of the leader’s power. A powerful leadership impact usually has an intellectual component – the leader is intelligent and agile, thinks fast and solves problems skillfully. A second component of power is emotional – the powerful leader inspires loyalty and passion, creating a personal connection with everyone he or she encounters.
But we often neglect the physical component if power. Powerful people usually display a set of physical traits and abilities that set them apart from the rank-and-file. These qualities may include:
- Awareness of one’s surroundings
- Clear purpose
- Capacity to withstand stress
All of these words and phrases have both a literal, physical meaning and a symbolic meaning. Balance, for example, can refer both to the ability to stand on one foot and to the ability to prioritize competing demands for one’s time. Leaders need to display these capabilities in both physically and symbolically.
Considerable evidence shows that developing your physical capabilities has direct impact on your leadership, both on how others see you and on how you function as a leader. Too often leaders neglect their physical well-being because of the ferocious demands of their leadership role.
How does a busy leader develop a powerful physical presence? A thorough assessment from a fitness professional can help to identify areas of strength and weakness. An effective fitness program takes into account your preferences, schedule, budget, and physical limitations. Working with a personal trainer provides a high level of customization and motivation, but it isn’t necessary. Powerful leaders we know engage in wide variety of physical activities: running, biking, swimming, dance, fitness classes, weight training, and others. Two approaches that are particularly effective for developing a powerful presence are yoga and aikido, because of their emphasis on balance and awareness as well as on strength and stamina.
We all know that exercise is good for us. But for powerful leaders, it is even more critical, not only for the leader’s health and well-being, but also for his or her impact and effectiveness.