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December 01, 2014

The Three Elements of Your Leadership Stance

It’s easy to think of ‘Leadership’ as a theoretical concept to be explored intellectually. And, in fact, that exploration is one of my favorite things to do, as the idea of leadership is so rich with a multiplicity of definitions, perspectives and applications. I think of it as a kaleidoscope — there are many different things to see and discover, especially as the turn of a situation or a change in direction can require a different type of leadership.

But going beyond the theoretical and getting to the day to day manifestation of leadership, how does it show up in you, a coworker or supervisor? How is it expressed and seen? We can all think of multiple leaders in our lives, and we observe that they all have a slightly different way to express their particular brand of leadership.

This expression is what I call the Leadership Stance. Being aware and intentional about this stance is important for you as a professional, as it is THE way your identity as a leader is perceived. And like a company brand, it exists in the minds of those you serve, whether or not you are shaping it proactively. So if you’re not being intentional about it, it will be shaped by the thoughts and conversations of those around you, who can very easily base it on assumptions.

Be aware of these three key elements of your Leadership Stance — the three Vs:

Verbal, Visual, and Visceral

1. The Verbal element of your stance is perhaps the most obvious. It involves the kind of language you speak most often. If you were to wrap all your communication up into one ball, which types of language would be the most prominent? Do you primarily use words of affirmation, collaboration, clarity, confidence, optimism, possibility and vision? Or do you use the language of criticism, competition, overwhelm, stress, negativity, boundaries and skepticism? I don’t think we’re ever clearly in one camp or the other, but I would encourage a self-awareness about which one we’re more often speaking to.

2. The Visual element of your stance is about just that — the nonverbal communication that is expressed in our physical posture, gestures, facial expressions and body movements. These often speak louder than words. Learn to become aware of they physical cues you are sending as a leader. Are they about being open, grounded, engaged, inviting, or energetic? Or are they about being frantic, intimidated, threatened, combative or closed-off? One way to find out what message you’re sending by your body language is to ask your coworkers and colleagues. You’re thinking…”What? You’re crazy! I’m scared what I might hear!” To that I say “Have the courage to find out and learn from what you hear. You are a leader, after all.”

3. The Visceral element of your stance is the hardest to put your finger on but may just be the most important, at least in my opinion. It’s about the energy you bring into a space as a leader. Even though this may sound kinda ‘woo woo’ to some of you, trust me that everybody feels it and feeds off it. I bet if you thought about the different coworkers on your team, you could describe the type of overall energy they each bring into a room. So, for yourself, be curious about whether you bring an energy that’s tense, frenetic, defensive, heavy, disconnected or resistant. Or whether you bring an energy that’s approachable, light, fun, centered, confident, connected or calm.


  • Your Leadership Stance is the way your identity as a leader is perceived
  • If you’re not aware of it, and intentional about it, then you may end up being misunderstood
  • The three key elements of your leadership stance are the Verbal, Visual and Visceral
  • Become more aware and curious about the type of language, gestures, and energy you express as a leader, and ensure that the prevailing messages align with the leader you want to be and the leader your organization needs
  • Have the courage to ask your team for their feedback on how you’re presenting as a leader, and learn from their input to tweak your stance if needed

Try This Out

  • Choose one element of your Leadership Stance (either Verbal, Visual or Visceral) and focus your attention on just that one area for an entire day
  • Experiment with adjusting your stance for different situations, as long as it’s always representing an authentic you
  • Lead your team members through an exercise to identify the three elements of their individual Leadership Stances
  • Do a ‘Leadership Stance’ check-in with your team annually or quarterly to get their feedback on your stance

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