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Your effectiveness as a leader is tied to your image.

Your ability to project a leadership presence in the eyes of employees, customers and others is closely related to your ability to do your job well. Your image, then, can be either an asset or a liability as you engage in the roles of leadership.

A study of 150 executives who attended CCL’s Leadership at the Peak program shows that the image leaders portray correlates highly with perceptions of their leadership skills.

In that study, leaders who conveyed their vision in a strong, positive way were seen as stronger in these seven areas:

No. 1: The ability to lead change
No. 2: Being dynamic
No. 3: Competence in strategic planning
No. 4: Being farsighted
No. 5: Inspiring commitment
No. 6: Being original
No. 6: Having a strong executive image

“What is image?” you may ask.

Leadership image encompasses many things: personality, behavior, body language and speaking style, as well as formal status and physical appearance. Simply stated, your image is the concept that others form about you as a result of the impressions you make on them.

Your image can have a great impact on how people get to know you as a person and as a leader. Whether someone is getting to know you through a first meeting, over time or through the media, your image is being broadcast and your reputation is being formed.

Fortunately, however, you can control the image others have of you. With awareness and practice, you can change your behavior and improve your leadership image.

You can choose to be more open and show a side of yourself you normally keep hidden. You can change the way you communicate by improving your speaking and writing style. You can develop new skills that will help you build a reputation as an effective leader.

But to craft your image, you first must gain a clear picture of the image people currently have of you. Then, you have to decide what image you want to portray. And, finally, you must develop skills to close the gap.

Many executives who attend CCL’s Leadership at the Peak program struggle with their authenticity as leaders, especially when dealing with those outside their inner circles. They often feel such a strong need to maintain their executive image that it becomes the main obstacle to their authenticity. They are unsure how to be genuine leaders and, at the same time, work on crafting their image.

If you are struggling with being authentic, try rethinking your understanding of executive image. Successful people often define their image more narrowly than they should. They unnecessarily put tight limits on themselves as they try to uphold a powerful façade.

Revealing your personality and humanness is a far better sign of effective leadership.

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