Pat Kirkland


What happens when you’re willing to give up who think you are … for who you can be

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I get such joy from coaching people who readily “take the leap” to strengthen their Leadership Presence.

This is a love letter to those people.

You’re the people ready to learn new things, open to feedback and willing to try out new behaviors. Internally, we call you ”R.O.W.” — Ready, Open, and Willing.

You’re willing to find out what’s not working for you and replace those behaviors with what brings out your best.

For example, you’ll replace an expressionless face for a soft smile, or an upspeak habit with a warm downward inflection. 

You’ll take the leap even when the new behavior feels awkward, or hard to do. You choose whether to keep it after you watch your video to see how it affects your presence.

And hey, Spoiler Alert: You’re the people who have the most powerful breakthroughs in the program and sky-rocket in your careers and life afterward!

Be willing to be bad in the beginning. Be willing to be uncomfortable.

So…what happens when you’re willing to give up who you think you are for who you can be?

You go further, faster. And fly higher.

Greetings, Fellow Citizens of Earth. I bring you leadership lessons from a crisis a century ago.

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As we weather this pandemic, our connections will see us through, whether we’re 6 feet apart, on social media, or in a video call.

We need leaders everywhere with smarts, who care about our well-being.

Leaders who create connection.

Leaders like Ernest Shackleton.

Shipwrecked in Antarctica in 1915, Shackleton’s leadership presence kept his team together in a survival story lauded by historians as “incredible.” The book is a great read.
True leaders embody what they believe. Their leadership approach radiates from their body language.

In Shackleton’s time, other expeditions were also shipwrecked in Antarctica. All but his lost many lives to starvation and violence among the crew.
Shackleton’s ship the Endurance, crushed in the ice.
Photo by expedition photographer Frank Hurley.
Shackleton was able to not only keep all his men alive — he kept them happy and content — while stranded on the ice for more than 18 months.
Shackleton’s crew playing a game on the ice while shipwrecked.
Photo by expedition photographer Frank Hurley.
Based on biographies about him, it’s clear Shackleton led through his presence. There’s no doubt his crew looked to him constantly for clues as to what their future might hold. At all times, he gave off a sense of confidence and optimism that they’d survive.

Like Shackleton, your leadership presence is now more important than ever, whether you’re dealing with the new realities of working 100% virtually, managing kids at home, or on the front lines of battling the pandemic.

So I encourage you to use these skills and behaviors to be like Shackleton:

Leadership Presence Creates Connection

A relaxed, open, still body says

“I’m not afraid. I’m confident in my abilities.”

A relaxed face / soft smile and light humor (what I call “beachballs”) says

“We’re going to get through this.”

Confident, meaningful gestures say

“I have a clear idea I want to convey.”

A matter of fact tone and downward inflection say

“These are the facts. Let’s act accordingly.”

Speaking in above average volume says

“This is important.”

Direct eye contact says

“I see you as a person, not a number or a threat.”

Using someone’s name says

“You’re important to me.”

Bottom lining information says

“This is the thing to remember.”

Lead to connect, and don’t touch your face! (picture taken BEFORE the virus outbreak!:)


Pat Kirkland
Pat Kirkland Leadership
If you haven’t guessed, I love coaching people to strengthen their leadership presence.

Hands down, it’s palm up

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You outstretch your hand toward someone in a meeting or presentation. “Yes, Amit, you have a question?”

Is your palm up, or down, or are you pointing with your finger?

Does it matter?

As it turns out, it does. Research shows palm up is most effective.

It’s somethng I’ve coached people on for years. And I recently came across information that helps me better understand how and why it works.

One of my favorite books is Super Better by Jane McGonigal.   In it, she notes that from ancient, pre-language times, holding a hand out with the palm up indicates a welcome, and an offer of help. A palm down, however, is a negative, a rejection.

And, Allan Pease in his Ted Talk  Body language, the power is in the palm of your hand” (from about 5:30 to 10) explains and demonstrates the power of the upturned palm significantly impacts vs the downturned palm and the pointed finger.  Using the same content, he notes that the research shows that direction given with palms up can be 40% more effective in terms of audience retention and engagement than downturned palms. Audiences recall less of what speaker say when the speaker points.

So what does this have to do with Leadership Presence?

Gesturing with your palm up conveys that you welcome and support the listener — that they are “in good hands” with you. it’s one the micro behaviors that make you appear open, approachable, and able to create connection between you and other people.

In the coming week, notice what palm position you and others use most often. When gesturing toward another person, do you do it with your palm up, your palm down, or do you point? Watch what other people do … and notice your response to them. 

If you tend to point or gesture with your palm down, start mapping in the palm up approach.. 

Want to learn more? Check our open enrollment program schedule — or contact us about setting up a program for your organization!
Quest on!

The non verbal behaviors that help make the Parkland students powerful leaders

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photo: screenshot from CBS News coverage.

Like so many around the world, I’ve watched the student survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL in awe.  They’ve created and now lead the massive #NeverAgain movement for gun control. Their goal is to spare others the suffering they’ve experienced.

So what does this have to do with Leadership Presence?

Could it be content? Time magazine points out that some of these students had studied gun control and politics well before the shooting. They’ve got facts at hand.

How about debate skills?  The Miami Herald ran an article in which school superintendent Robert Runcie credits  the school district’s system-wide debate program that teaches extemporaneous speaking from an early age.”  And their debate teacher, Jesus Caro, who speaks at their rallies, has clearly done a tremendous job coaching them. Caro rightly says “It does make me proud.”

No doubt he’s proud!  And no doubt that practice speaking extemporaneously from an early age combined with a firm grasp on relevant content has helped prepare them for this moment.

These young people use powerful non verbal behaviors to show up as competent, approachable leaders. My team’s been in touch with Caro via social media, who confirms that they discuss tone, inflection, and body positioning.

Watch part of this video from CBS news — from1:43 to 7:18 — in which Parkland students David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez are interviewed — and hold their own — with two news desk professionals.
Notice these 3 key skills that David and Emma exhibit as they:
  • Speak in a matter-of-fact tone and their brows are relaxed. At times Emma has a soft smile. This signals that, despite the highly emotional nature of their topic, they’re going to remain calm and approachable.
  • Use short sentences and phrases, with many ending in downward inflection — for example, listen to when Emma says “We’re going to make this change” at about 2:30 – 2:41.  You can feel her certainty when she drops her pitch at the end of the sentence.
  • Hold their bodies still. A still body signals competence and confidence.
The combination of those behaviors keep their presence strong, confident and composed. They come across with tremendous maturity, holding their own with adult professionals.

Notice also the effect that these young leaders have on those they lead. One of the news desk people says she “was so impressed with the behavior of the kids” at the most recent march. These young leaders are modeling the behavior they want from others in the movement. As leadership expert Dede Henley writes in Forbes, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create other leaders.”

Oh … and there’s one more thing I want to point out:

Do Emma and David use all the non verbal behaviors of effective leadership 100% of the time? No. Do they use them enough to make an impact? Absolutely.

As noted in the Miami Herald article, David Hogg says “I’ve never won a single debate tournament, even come in 10th place … I guess it shows you don’t have to be great at something to make an impact.”

David and Emma’s leadership presence shows that you don’t have to be great at something. You have to step up and take action, use the best skills you can. When you do, you can make a difference.

Want to learn more? Check our open enrollment program schedule — or contact us about setting up a program for your organization!
Quest on!

About Me: My life’s work is to move humanity one step forward through more effective communication. That mission brought me to crack  the code on the non verbal behaviors that create the New Leadership Presence. I developed the Predator / Prey / Partner™ model that my team and I use to coach people in small groups in both company-sponsored and public workshops to show up as competent, approachable leaders.