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The Paradox of Presence

| May 24, 2022

by Mark Goedert

The Paradox of Presence

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Mark N. Goedert, Director of IT Planning & Strategy, University of Illinois Chicago. It is a reflection on what he is learning as a current MOR program participant.  Mark may be reached at [email protected].]

My MOR leadership journey is very much like a puzzle.  The first pieces were the reflections, feedback, and goals set at the start of the program.  As time progressed, each session brought more pieces into the leadership puzzle. Pieces that were given freely through the sharing of leadership journeys, coaching advice, and cohort insights.

Like any puzzle, I began to experience frustration as I searched for an elusive piece. The piece I am searching for is presence, and how to exude the many attributes that define great leadership. Attributes we found in our readings around appearance, emotion, passion, drive, and empathy. My struggle is the paradox of adopting these attributes that define great leadership while remaining true to who I am.

This paradox was illustrated beautifully to me by authors Muriel Wilkins and Amy Jen Su in their book Own the Room.  The book follows the leadership journey of John and Terri, who rely heavily on their natural abilities to advance their careers.  We join John and Terri at a point where they are at risk of getting passed over for promotion to executive leadership roles.
The Supportive Voice
John possesses innate abilities of empathy and thoughtfulness, attributes that have allowed him to rise through the ranks.  Though less confident in handling conflict, and seemingly physically overwhelmed by his current workload, John is in the final round for an executive role.  As I continued to follow John’s journey, I nervously noticed his responses were similar to what I would say or do.
The Driving Voice
Terri has a driven personality that focuses on results, she is known for bringing innovative ideas to the table and strong presentation skills.  We find Terri taking part in an elite leadership development program and sitting in front of her is a 360 review.  The review confirmed her strengths and at the same time pointed to areas that Terri can work on: listening, building relationships, and conflict management.
The natural skills that Terri and John relied upon were no longer working.  Terri, with a strong voice for self, conveyed confidence, and determination.  John, with a strong voice for others, allowed him to easily connect with others and intuitively respond to their needs.  As Terri and John approached the executive level, expectations had broadened, exposing the less developed capabilities each of them had.

John and Terri both needed to develop new capabilities to advance in their careers.  Terri could use more of what John had and vice versa.  Relating to John, I have a natural tendency to rely on a supportive voice. I also recognize that I need to enhance my driving voice so I can rely on it to demonstrate value and move initiatives forward.

I have found that the missing piece in my leadership puzzle is not a piece at all.  It is a glass tile in my leadership mosaic; a single image with iridescent colors that change when viewed from different angles and sources of light.  It is situational awareness that allows me to shift from my preferred voice to an authentic and connected voice that adapts to changing circumstances. It will be the mosaic of who I truly am, my leadership presence, and my signature voice.


This Week’s Survey

Which voice do you identify with most?


From Last Week
Last week, we asked: What advice would you give to someone trying to adopt a new leadership practice?

  • 38% said set small goals (and rewards) along the way
  • 30% said find a peer to help hold you accountable
  • 20% said write down your specific plans
  • 12% said use calendar reminders

If you’re looking to adopt a new leadership practice, each of the above can be helpful in their own way.  Writing down a goal and making sure we find ways to remind ourselves of that goal (such as calendar reminders), is the beginning.  Roughly 2 out of every 3 of our readers recognized the next critical step of taking action to achieve our goals.  For some of us, that action is through internal validation by setting small goals along the path and rewarding ourselves for achieving them.  For others, something especially helpful to enabling our action is having trusted peers who can hold us accountable.  What matters here is finding what works best for you in following through on the steps needed to make your new leadership practice a reality.