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EI Tip: Leader as Self-in-Presence


Leaders in an organization have a unique role. They have to manage their own internal emotional landscape while facing the needs and demands of the others. This is not a small task.

To describe this leadership challenge we are borrowing the term “Self-in-Presence” from a body of work called Focusing, which deals with the internal landscape of an individual.

Defining Self-in-Presence

Self-in-Presence is an individual’s ability to take an observer-like, objective, and non-judgmental inventory of uncomfortable experiences inside themselves without impulsively acting upon them. Taking the time to observe and acknowledge, rather than react, triggers an opportunity for creative solutions to emerge.

Self-in-Presence for a Leader

The same theory not only applies to leadership but is essential to a leader’s success. A leader is not only responsible for their own Self-in-Presence, they become Self-in-Presence for the team and organization as a whole. A leader’s job is to build a container for people in the organization where those with differing opinions and strong emotions can be heard. This can be uncomfortable, but it allows for the best path forward to emerge rather than just the loudest person’s voice taking over.

This means that when people are being asked to do something they are uncomfortable doing, such as in this month’s article (Is Your Team Too Big, Too Small or Just Right) about stepping off a leadership team, the leader needs to be able to be present with them in their discomfort and hear and acknowledge their concerns while maintaining a clear direction and expectation.

People may get angry and state a clear dislike or mistrust in the leader’s decision. For leader’s who wants to be liked, this can be very difficult. The key is to listen, reflect, empathize but not necessarily agree.

Of course, there will be times when the frustration, anger or disappointment of others takes a toll. Great leaders turn towards their own inner emotional landscape and have ways of taking care of themselves in order to maintain clarity and define boundaries. We are all human though. So when it is too much for your own Self-in-Presence, borrow someone else’s:

  • A peer that is a sounding board and willing to listen

  • A coach or mentor that is available to you and others when folks are upset

  • A practice that allows the leader to pause, reflect and deal effectively with his/her own energy, such as meditation, running, or simply a walk outside.

Leaders that practice Self-in-Presence have a strategy to help them balance and deal with their own internal issues and are then able to provide a stable, strong presence that holds the direction going forward, which allows the organization to follow.

Susan Clarke and CrisMarie Campbell are Coaches, Consultants, and Speakers at thrive! inc. (www.thriveinc.com) They help business leaders and their teams use the energy of conflict, rather than – avoid or defuse it – to get to creative, innovative, profitable business results. You can see their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! On YouTube. They would be happy to coach you, consult with your team, or to speak at your next event. Contact them at thrive@thriveinc.com


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