Getting Back in Touch with the Basics of Leadership


It means being fully engaged in what is happening now, not later, not yesterday, and nor somewhere else. It means slowing down, listening, opening up to what is, what could be, and what else.

  • Physically Present

    Communicating your mission, principles and values.
    more >>

  • Mentally Present

    Igniting the human intellect.
    more >>

  • Emotionally Present

    Unleashing powerful chemistry to overcome barriers.
    more >>

This book is not just about picking up some new management trick, a few pointers, or something you will plug-and-play with how you lead today. There are countless books out there on strategy, vision, execution—oh, and yes, time management. While these leadership qualities are important, we believe the most effective way to lead people is to be fully present, which means your presence is part of who you are, not just something you do.

Everything said in this book is intended to equip you with the tools to unleash the natural pride that people can have in their work, their desire to have their company succeed.  Succeed fabulously.  When you consider who has had the most dramatic impact on you as a person and as a leader, it is almost always someone who was present in the ways depicted in this book.

Nearly every recognized employee engagement survey persistently points out that employees want to see management - certainly their direct boss, but also executive management all the way to the CEO or managing director. This fact has never really changed over decades of such surveys. People want to feel connected to upper management and they want upper management to understand the issues they face in their jobs.


It allows employees to gain an understanding of you as a person and serves as a bit of a field trial in terms of your credibility and poise that only comes from looking someone in the eye. There is something about being in physical proximity that matters, and management is no exception.


It demonstrates that the walk around the shop floor, the design lab, the operations center, the loading docks and the back-office cubicles more important – at least in that moment – than everything else back in the office. Our priorities are measured by our place in the time/space continuum and what we do with it while we are there. Done well, management of that continuum telegraphs the value we place on the people we meet.


At the executive leadership level, it can be hard to get to the truth. The higher you are in executive management, the more likely that people will try to curry favor with you by protecting you (or themselves) from hard realities. As one client of mine once said when he was promoted to CEO, “As of today, I will know less about what’s really going on in my business than I ever did before.”

Being physically present allows you to leverage your senses to gain insights into your business that may not show up in those executive operations reviews or even dashboard tracking systems.

When you line up the swath of employee engagement surveys available to most businesses today, it is easy to see the thread across all of them: The Human Factor. Sure, the “hard” factors are there— effectiveness of systems, clarity of strategy and market penetration. All of these things matter to people who want to feel they are part of a viable enterprise. However, the inescapable human factors are profoundly shaped by physical presence.

Right now, at companies all over the world, leaders are barreling down the tracks at the helm of very important, critical functions, but they are not mentally present. As good as they may be in handling the obvious challenge, it’s fair to wonder what they are missing.

When you are with your team at work, are you mentally present? At all times? We all have distractions. But I ask you. Is that distraction more important, at that very moment, than what you are actually doing?

Being mentally present means being fully engaged in what is happening at the moment.

We are easily distracted from the higher order of critical thinking. It takes an intentional, focused effort to bear down and think deeply, critically and even creatively about the world around us. Like anything you do well, it takes a commitment, practice and discipline for it to become a habit. Great leaders are present mentally.

We believe leadership thinking can never be reserved to executive management. You want an organization that can “think for itself” so your leadership is scalable. When people see you thinking actively, it can invite them to do the same; they understand thinking about the work—not just doing it—is key to growth and success. No CEO or executive leader can pretend he or she has all the answers, so fostering a thinking organization invites ideas and innovation on a large scale.

Thinking, by its nature, moves the business forward. All great performance comes from doing new things well, and new things are the result of ideas and insights—all of which spring from critical thinking. The mentally present leader is not just one who gets things done, but one who ignites the human intellect at all levels, starting with his or her own.

We have heard that we make decisions emotionally and rationalize them intellectually. This is why we read the brochures with all of the specifications after we have bought the car or the new appliance.

Our dens or kitchens or garages are museums to the tenet that we are driven by emotions, not logic, in making decisions. Emotions are more powerful than logic.

As well, many executives labor under the misunderstanding that leadership is about staying cool, reserved and a bit distant as a well-intended practice to remain independent in their thinking and actions. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Being emotionally present doesn’t mean wearing your emotions on your sleeve. Raw emotional expression has its place, but no one will follow someone for very long who cries a lot, admits too easily to fear, or even cares a bit too much.

Emotional presence is grounded in a belief that emotions are what connect us as human beings. Emotions unleash some powerful chemistry inside of us to help us overcome barriers to realize something we truly want. Leaders Don’t Scroll. A leader is not a Jumbotron. A leader is so much more.

Doug Sterbenz

Present To Win, LLC

Must Be Present To Win

Paul Heagen

Defining Moments Leadership Consulting