Throughout the past two years many of us have been challenged to demonstrate effective executive presence while working remotely. But how do you convey leadership prowess when you’re not physically in the same room?
Perhaps Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has most recently provided a great example of how to do this effectively—even while his life is being threatened and his country devastated by the Russian invasion.
First and foremost, Zelenskyy has led with values and demonstrates courage, vision and inspiration to Ukrainians and people around the world. Becoming famous by first acting as a fictional president in “Servant of the People,” perhaps the war has verified his ability to truly embody the notion of a servant to others.
Clearly, before becoming president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy understood how to communicate effectively as he rose from comedian to commander by capturing more than 70% of the vote. This effective wartime president has been able to gather worldwide sympathy as well as support for him and the Ukrainian people.
Whether President Putin may have simply underestimated the Ukrainian people’s resolve or President Zelenskyy has effectively held back a quick and decisive victory is still unclear. Regardless, the Ukrainian president is certainly effective in demonstrating his leadership.
Here are some examples how President Zelenskyy demonstrates executive presence:
- Leads with values – speaks of freedom and independence for the Ukrainian people.
- Speaks in terms of “we, the people of Ukraine” rather than “I alone can fix it” language.
- Knows his medium: capitalizes on social media to effectively communicate his message.
- Takes his own video selfies using not only words, but visuals of him wearing fatigues, sitting with his troops, and using backgrounds effectively.
- Targets message to his audience: speaks Russian to Russian citizens, speaks English as necessary, and channels Winston Churchill in House of Commons speech: “we will fight in the fields, in the forests, in the streets . . .”
- Demonstrates courage: When offered a safe way out, says “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”
When it comes to conveying leadership presence in less precarious and dangerous positions, perhaps there are some lessons to learn from Zelenskyy. Running an organization or any team of people requires showing up in a way that demonstrates you as a leader. This is about how you are perceived by others.
As I described in a previous blog post titled Building Trust & Connection via Zoom, it’s important to show you value others, carefully communicate, confidently collaborate and trust totally. Beyond the importance of digital body language, demonstrating executive presence in a virtual environment means:
- Actively listen and take careful note of participants’ body language, focused attention, and whether they are engaged in the way you want.
- Ensure that you remain fully engaged and are not distracted by multi-tasking.
- Facilitate discussions to make everyone feel included and valued. Build on ideas, summarize information, and appoint actions to be taken.
- Watch your tone of voice to ensure it is appropriate given the subject matter and the people involved, especially as this carries more weight without being in the same room.
- Dress appropriately and groom yourself as if you were in the office. This falls under the category of “look the part of a leader.”
- Use positive language and recognize that you may have to work harder to convey warmth due to the digital distance.
When you do these things effectively, you will show up in a way that others perceive as that of a leader. Since you can’t demonstrate how you physically carry yourself when you walk into a conference room, do all you can to accentuate the medium you are confined to. This is about how you look, how you speak, how you listen, how you participate.
Don’t disregard the importance of optimizing the medium you find yourself to bring out your best self. You’ll not only act like a leader but look the part as well.