When someone has command presence, it's hard to miss. He is the fire-service leader to whom other firefighters listen when a building is burning, the police officer to whom others look for guidance in a security crisis or the small business leader whom others trust to guide them to a goal deadline.

When you have a strong command presence, leadership happens more easily and with greater impact. Your body language, composure and ability to think and coordinate with others communicate that you know what you are doing, that you can be trusted and that you are worthy of respect.

Command Presence: Definition

Command presence is when a leader has a reputation of operating with wisdom, integrity and sense such that others trust her to exercise good judgment and to lead the way. Small business leaders with good command presence make great bosses and often portray the following 16 admirable traits:

  1. Optimistic thinkers
  2. Wise prioritizers 
  3. Clear delegators who trust their team members
  4. Tactful and truthful communicators
  5. Values transparency
  6. Inspires visionaries
  7. Excellent at relationship building
  8. Values unifying the team around one purpose
  9. Frequently honors the contributions of others
  10. Practices healthy boundaries and work-life blend
  11. Sees the best in employees' efforts
  12. Holds a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset
  13. Mentors others regularly
  14. Values accountability 
  15. Level-headed and fair
  16. Systematic and routine oriented

When you have a powerful command presence, your employees feel comfortable talking openly with you, seeking your guidance and following your instructions. They know that you take the input of others into consideration and that you arrive at your choices in an informed and collaborative way. Your employees know that you care about them and that acting in the company's best interest means acting in their best interest too.

When Leaders Command Presence

If you have big dreams for your small business and goals that match the size of those dreams, one of the best ways to get where you are going is by working on increasing your command presence. All of the traits of strong leaders are learned traits and behaviors that come with some exceptional results, like:

  • High morale
  • Culture of admirable values
  • Healthy team communication
  • Increased collaboration
  • Increased trust
  • Clarity of mission and vision on all levels
  • Increased strategic clarity
  • Sense of community and unity

When your team works together in a healthy way toward clear objectives and enjoys doing it, reaching or exceeding your projections becomes easier and less costly. Business growth often begins with personal growth that results in a stronger command presence.

When Leaders Don't Command Presence

When leaders don't command presence, they often find themselves feeling exhausted and overworked. It can feel like you're saying the same thing over and over again, talking to a wall and never getting anywhere. You might notice the following signs in your team:

  • Frequent disagreements
  • Lack of clarity surrounding expectations
  • Lack of clarity surrounding priorities
  • Lack of unity
  • Increased isolation
  • Sense of distrust or disbelief

Almost all leaders and employees have the occasional bad day or "off" week where dysfunction is more prevalent than normal. However, if this becomes more the norm than the exception, it might be time to reflect on how to grow in your own leadership in such a way that it brings out the best in you and others.

What Makes a Commanding Presence

Having a commanding presence as a leader is not just about telling people what to do or trying to make yourself seem more authoritative. To the contrary, in order to have a more commanding presence, it's imperative that you have a connected and connecting presence. Establishing command means establishing relationships centered on real and authentic care.

When you walk into a room with a well-respected leader, you can tell it right away. People have good rapport with that individual, look up to that individual and seem just as comfortable sharing a joke as they do following directions. Because a healthy relationship undergirds every interaction, people are able to experience a wide range of emotions under a wide variety of circumstances with that leadership relationship intact.

Portraying Command in the Workplace

Portraying command in the workplace is about developing healthy relationships with your employees and interacting with them in emotionally mature ways. This means that you intentionally invest time and care into them, choose your words wisely and think through to consequences before taking action. Practicing these patterns over time leads to an employee base that respects you as a person and believes that you have a good idea about what is best for the business and for them.

If you want to portray more command in the workplace, consider incorporating some of the following practices in your regular work routine:

  • Weekly lunches with top performers
  • Coaching calls with people who need a boost
  • Team meetings where collaborative input is encouraged
  • Transparent financial records and goals
  • Regular time off for both you and your employees
  • Team-building activities and retreats

Portraying Lack of Command

If you feel like you are constantly fighting your employees, who do not believe in your vision or strategies, then you might be portraying a lack of command. Sometimes, taking a leadership self-inventory can help you grow into the kind of leader you want to be. When a conflict arises, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Was I calm and clear?
  2. Did I include and value the input of others?
  3. Did I give an achievable and realistic path forward? 

It is possible to have conflict in the workplace even if you have done these things, but perhaps you need help in learning how to unify a team, or you might need to consider your team-building strategies, especially if you are a new leader working with a team that has been hurt by leadership in the past. Give your relationship with your employees time to develop and surround yourself with people who reflect where you want your business to be in a month, a year or 10 years from now.

Growing in Command Presence

The good news is that even if you do not seem to have a strong command presence now, you can grow in these skills over time. As you develop stronger command presence, leadership will come more naturally to you, and your employees will come to respect you. Start with working on developing healthy relationship and communication skills outside of the workplace and then practice those skills with your team.

For instance, if you struggle with self-defeating and pessimistic thinking, start by working on this in your private life. Learn how to practice thought stopping and replace negative thinking with more optimistic positive thinking. Practice seeing the best in yourself, make daily affirmations part of your morning routine and journal on best-case scenarios. As you grow in this area personally, you can begin to practice more positive thinking and communication in the workplace to help increase your command presence, leadership and relationship skills.

Command Presence Tips

The following command presence tips can help you begin to establish a sense of leadership of which you and your team can be proud. Change does not happen overnight, so try focusing on one or two of these per month instead of all at once. Improving even one of these 10 areas is likely to make a positive difference in how you relate to your employees:

  1. Focus on developing a positive mindset.
  2. Regularly seek wisdom and guidance from people you respect.
  3. Clear extra responsibilities from your plate in order to let your team help with them.
  4. Study healthy communication skills and then practice them with people close to you.
  5. Communicate your growth areas and let your team have growth areas too.
  6. Communicate your mission and vision from the heart.
  7. Host regular team recognition meetings to celebrate progress intentionally.
  8. Choose one or two people to mentor into leadership roles.
  9. Choose one or two people to boost and encourage with new skills. 
  10. Practice strong emotional regulation and self-care. 

As you become stronger in these growth areas, you might continually cycle through them or add other areas of personal growth that will help you become a stronger leader. Find other leaders and ask them for command presence tips that could help you nurture team relationships. Take time to read books, listen to podcasts and find little tidbits to put into action that will help get you where you are going in your leadership skills.

Practicing Commanding Presence

Sometimes, small business leaders have a heart to practice excellence in leadership but simply need extra practice. Toastmasters is a public speaking organization that can teach you the basics of public speaking and body language and then give you the opportunity to practice those skills.

Your local community college might also offer courses in leadership, communication and public speaking, where you can learn from the best and find community with other students. Consider presenting at a conference, speaking in your place of worship or holding workshops outside of the work setting where you can practice new leadership and communication skills.

If you are able to establish a strong command presence in a setting outside your regular work environment, it might become easier to do it at work too. You can examine what you did differently in the other setting, what the dynamics were and how you communicated with others. Others in those settings might offer you constructive feedback about what they enjoy or struggle with when it comes to your leadership style. Use this information in your small business in order to improve relationships with your employees and increase your command presence.

Seeking Outside Help 

Leadership can be a challenging road, and we are not meant to go it alone. Sometimes, a bit of outside help is just what the doctor ordered, especially when it comes to strengthening our leadership. Do not be afraid to reach out to a business coach for a bit of help in learning new business and leadership strategies. Life and productivity coaches can help you form healthy work and personal habits so you can become the leader you want to be.

Other modalities can also be helpful in strengthening personal skills that lead to an increased command presence. HRV biofeedback can help you learn to neutralize stress, manage your emotions and think more clearly under stress. Neurofeedback can help you form new neural pathways so you can see things more positively in the workplace while enjoying increased productivity and a greater appreciation for the present moment.

Yoga, qigong and tai chi help with improved stress reduction and an increased sense of well-being that make it easier for you to become the level-headed, wise and respected leader your team needs.