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Mastering First and Lasting Impressions

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Using Leadership Presence to Impact Results

One of my treasured leadership mandates involved transformation and disruptive change, which impacted myself, my peers and a several hundred-person team. I was out of a job once the project was complete, but that role and time was also one of my favourite work experiences.

What made it so memorable? Our leader. He had a vision, confidence, intentional execution and a strong people philosophy. He delegated challenging work. You wanted to spend time with him and listen — really listen. He made me feel like I did great work, even when he was giving me feedback. Many years later, I’ve kept in touch with him because his leadership had a lasting impact on me.

Leaders have a leadership DNA that makes them great leaders. The attributes of their DNA hardwire them to reach for higher levels of their leadership capacity. How a leader shows up under stress can create very different results in their performance and persuasion.

Further, the last 18months have been one of the greatest tests for Leadership Presence (also known as Executive Gravitas) because of the ever-changing conditions and associated pressures due to the pandemic.

In all my learning, formal and on the job, the way Leadership Presence is defined is consistent. Yet the way it’s deployed is unique to the individual. Leadership Presence is a leader's way of conveying confidence, engagement, and composure under pressure. Leadership Presence is also how others perceive you when you enter a room and engage with others, as well as how they’ll recall that experience at a later time.

The Leadership Presence Formula

Recently, I found Leadership Presence articulately defined as a formula. Professor Brooke Vuckovic of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management’s formula is:

Source: Brooke Vuckovic, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management

Your instrument panel to realize Executive Presence includes:

Credibility: A leader’s integrity, experience and preparation.

Ease: Consider equanimity. This is leader mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

Ego: An important ingredient to becoming a leader. Overused ego can be destructive if it becomes too “I” centred.

My takeaway was simple arithmetic: positive numbers are stronger together (credibility and ease). And the greater the denominator (ego), the higher the potential to erode the power of the positive. Leadership driven by self-importance will devalue your Leadership Presence. Leadership driven by self-esteem will add value to your Leadership Presence.

It takes seven seconds to make a first impression; one that has the potential to stick for a long time after.

Your Answer to Leadership Presence

Increased leadership capacity through effective Leadership Presence is realized through self-knowledge. There are three ways to realize accurate self-knowledge:

- self-awareness;

- assessments and diagnostics; and

- formal and informal feedback.

To realize all three elements of self-knowledge, Pivotal Growth uses The Attentional & Interpersonal Style (TAIS) inventory assessment, as well as our proprietary Leadership Diagnostic. The ego attribute of leaders means they may question the accuracy of the tools used to develop their leader persona. These tools have been applied to hundreds of leaders, and have shown that sometimes leaders move too quickly when assessing results. This can impact their ability to accurately build a plan for change in their leadership practice.

Taking a Deeper Look at Leadership

We developed the Pivotal Leadership Diagnostic to take a deeper, a more intrinsic look at leadership and teams. The Diagnostic consists of a group of leader-tested capabilities and competency self-assessment questions that includes Leadership Presence measurement. The diagnostic produces strengths based insights. This self-knowledge work also reveals blind spots and professional development needs. The diagnostic report and its interpretation accelerate the generation of leadership development plans for individuals and teams.

If you have a file full of self-assessments, the question for you is:

When did you last collect feedback that you used to create change?

I hear from high performance leaders the disdain they hold for the off-the-shelf feedback. The insights aren’t enough for them to create meaningful change, which is why we offer customized feedback that is powered by our diagnostic. It includes 8-12 customized questions. We can gather quantitative and qualitative insights from up to 50 respondents.

Ask yourself:

Do you have accurate self-knowledge and self-awareness?

● Do you have a leadership brand statement?

● Can you confidently engage in diverse situations?

● Can you inspirationally command a room?

A Pivotal Feedback Experience

"My curated 360-degree feedback journey was a deeply rewarding and educational experience. The process was seamless and compelling, so much so that the level of engagement from my peers and co-workers was astonishing, which in itself was truly gratifying. The guidance in navigating and unpacking the feedback received was insightful, and enhanced my understanding of my leadership skillset. Ultimately, in my case, the process was enormously validating, while at the same time delineating a roadmap for continuous and conscious improvement going forward."

- Vivek Warrier, Law Firm Partner

Leadership Presence is an important attribute of Leadership in Action and embedded in our leadership model. We are here to help with your vision, planning and practice.

Book a meeting to discuss your needs: Online meeting booking

Invest in a 1:1 diagnostic for your leadership development:

Develop your Custom Feedback Exercise : Purchase Leadership Performance Feedback Services.


Lisa W. Haydon is a business leader and entrepreneur with over 30 years of operational experience leading teams in banking, capital markets, technology and professional services.

Lisa’s instinct for sorting through business complexities, understanding distinctive leader personalities, and realizing results compelled her to leave a corporate career and become an entrepreneur. Her company, Pivotal Growth, introduced a technology tool for leadership development assessment and planning. The suite of tools offers diagnostic capabilities to synthesize and accelerate people performance.

Lisa’s skills and the Pivotal Growth product help companies enhance their performance and support leaders achieving greater confidence and success.

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