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The Easiest and Hardest Job For A Leader: Being Present

12 Steps to Becoming a Stronger Leader

Step 1: Be Present 

Description: In this blog, we discuss the importance of being present and using strategies to stay mindful. We also cover the messages we send to others by committing to be present when interacting with them and the dangers of living too far in the past or the future.

Don’t Miss the Moment

Have you ever finished a page in a book only to realize that you have no idea what you just read? Or driven to work, without consciously knowing how you got there?

A famous monk once said, “life is only available in the present moment.” This is a very challenging concept as a busy leader because we deal with multiple people, multiple initiatives, and solving or preventing problems on a daily basis. But if our mind is somewhere else, then so is our opportunity to be a positive influence, make an impact, or change our tiny  worlds.


There is no substitute for genuine attention and the extreme motivational power that it can provide to someone who is interacting with you. And our daily efforts are rewarded with singular focus when our heads aren’t in the clouds.

It’s so easy to get stuck in the past or always be looking to see “what’s next”, don’t give in, just stay the course. 

No matter how much you worry about what happened before, no matter how you plan for what might happen later, you and I are beings whose efficacy is ultimately limited to one moment in time: this one. Elyssa Barbash Ph.D., a practicing psychologist and contributing mental health professional for Psychology Today explains the concept in this way:

“...depression lives in the past and anxiety lives in the future. Alternately, calmness and peace of mind live in the present. One of the treatments that I frequently use in my work…focuses on mindfulness…Mindfulness is included for multiple reasons, including increasing self-awareness and learning how to be focused and fulfilled in the moment. In fact, one of the premises taught is about [not] letting your mind steal time from you.”

You can find her entire article here, but the practical takeaway is don’t be too far ahead, or behind. You can't miss the big picture, but you can’t live in the past either.

Here are a few tips to start being present as a leader:

  • Make sure that people know you are invested in your interaction with them. Don’t think about it literally - being present is not the same as just being in the room. Display some active listening by leaning in and mirroring the other person’s expressions.
  • Limit your distractions through planning or environment. Attempting multi-tasking falls into this category. Give assignments, conversations, and people their own time, and your undivided attention as much as possible.
  • Remove objects from between you and the person you are interacting with. This can be cups, cubicle walls, chairs, and even your desk. It may seem odd, but coming from behind your desk to have a conversation conveys to the other person that you feel it is of great importance.

Body Language Matters

These are a great place to start, and you can find a more comprehensive list of posture strategies from the Global Listening Center’s resource on the body language of listeners.

*An important thing to note here, is that once you have proven yourself as a present and invested leader, your people will begin to trust and open up to you. Once this happens you will have the opportunity to speak into their lives at a deeper level - check out this blog on supporting an employee who is struggling for a more in-depth look.*  

And don’t forget to visit our community of leaders on facebook to join the conversation on Millennial leadership. There, you can connect with other professionals and share stories and insights - check it out!

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