Impression Management and Role Transition - Guest Post by Diane Craig

Charismatic leaders operate in a state of continuous evolution and change. New roles, new positions, new corporations: change can take many forms. These leaders are men and women with executive presence — and they really get around. By definition, charismatic leaders are movers and shakers. They have the ability to influence or inspire others positively, by connecting with them physically, emotionally and intellectually.

And what enables these charismatic leaders to transition effectively is a keen awareness of impression management or “personal branding” that strengthens their executive presence. Far more than a solid base of knowledge and skills, executive presence includes behaviour — impression management, self-awareness, social awareness and relationship management. Then there are the competencies, credibility and trust. Of course, there’s the look of success, the dress and demeanor. Executive presence is, in a word, complex.

Impression management, of all the hallmarks of executive presence, is one of the most challenging to master. It’s the technique used to both build and impact the image others have of a person — his or her personal brand. One of my roles as an Image Consultant is executive presence coaching and my clients —from aspiring leaders to CEO’s — often consider impression management top-of-list. Coaching is recognized as the number one developmental tool for creating this personal brand. It’s not intervention or criticism I provide but feedback, through the brief but strategic alliance of trust formed with my clients.

Impression management training instills both an acute sense of self and sharp-wittedness. Body language is key for both signals given and received. Facile, nimble responses to social cues are a measure of skillful technique. People who closely monitor themselves, regardless of the situation, are called high self-monitors. They can switch on and off according to social demands and expectations but most importantly, they have learned to modify their behaviour and speech to suit the circumstances. So-called low self-monitors, by comparison, may be less observant, oblivious to their surroundings or even disdainful of withholding their true feelings.

High self-monitors do well in periods of transition or change. Because of their impression management skills, they are masters of relationship building and move easily through new territories to forge alliances. I want to emphasize that impression management, like the other qualities of executive presence, is a learned skill — there is no special gene or DNA. Leaders today are made, not born.

Detractors of impression management sometimes call it manipulative and artificial. I disagree and would suggest they really misunderstand the purpose. We’ve all seen those meltdown moments when a seemingly unshakeable politician or leader just plain loses it. Impression management training strives to prepare the individual for consistency and to minimize these moments of potential “collateral damage.”

As I watch successful leaders navigate uncharted waters, I see the benefits of impression management. By creating a personal brand, these skilled men and women are building their reputations. Promotion and its accompanying changes are a natural byproduct of this magnetic force we call executive presence. Ultimately, personal branding is a lifetime occupation.

Diane Craig: As President and founder of Corporate Class Inc., Diane has been on a 30-year journey as an image management expert. She has designed, created and implemented a comprehensive series of programs to polish the professional image of today’s business leaders. Diane has garnered international acclaim working with the who’s who in the business world. She has consulted with political leaders and celebrities, prepped guests of Royal families and prepared attendees of the G20 summit. Diane studied at the Richard Robinson Academy of Fashion Design. She refined her skills at the Protocol School of Washington and completed certificates in Intercultural Studies at UBC and the Pacific University.