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Is your image an asset or a liability? Contrary to popular thinking, image isn’t just a surface issue. Your image is strongly tied to your effectiveness as a leader. A recent study of executives who attended our Leadership at the Peak program revealed that the leader’s image has a significant impact on perceptions of that person’s leadership skills.

In the study, a strong image was closely tied to the following attributes: the ability to lead change, having a dynamic style, competency in strategic planning, showing an enterprising attitude, inspiring commitment, displaying original thinking and coming across as a true executive.

CCL’s Corey Criswell writes that a leader’s image is built at a first meeting, over time, and through the media by the leader’s personality, behavior, body language and speaking style. Criswell offers the following 6 tips to hone one’s leadership image:

  1. Warm up. Leaders don’t need to be serious to be taken seriously. A smile and some warmth are good things. Leaders who are overly reserved seem wooden, stiff and uncaring.
  2. Voice it well. In a media-saturated world, people know a good speaker when they hear one. A leader with a flat or monotone vocal style, inappropriate volume or poor diction won’t be effective.
  3. Be clear. Leaders who speak in vague, disjointed or rambling sentences will be misunderstood. If the message is unclear and non-specific, listeners will tune out and assume you don’t know what you’re talking about.
  4. Think “we.” Leaders who overuse the terms “I,” “me” and “my” lose their audience. Even if something is your idea, your vision and your responsibility, keep in mind that your job as a leader is much bigger than yourself. Use “we.”
  5. Find the thrill. When you were in school, which teacher captured your attention and imagination? The energetic teacher who seemed to love her job? Or the one who lectured dispassionately from the podium? For a leader, energy, interest and passion are crucial assets.
  6.  Be confident. It’s painful to watch a leader who is uncomfortable in front of a crowd or awkward in conversation. If you are uncomfortable in the roles you play, people will doubt your ability to be an effective leader – especially in difficult situations.

Remember, too, that crafting your image isn’t about creating a fake persona. According to Criswell, it is about understanding the image you would like to portray, gaining a clear picture of the image people currently have of you, and developing the skills to close the gap.

Don’t let a poor image limit your leadership potential. Craft a new one, starting today.

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