There is an unconscious quality that some call “presence,” others call “attitude,” and all of which try to explain “what is it that you fill the room with?”

We all have leaders and we usually judge them by asking “what kind of leader is he or she?” and “must I respect them?” This starts very early on. For example, in the movie Kindergarten Cop, tough man Arnold Schwarzenegger gets pushed around by a bunch of kindergarteners. By high school, however; we quickly ascertain whether this teacher is one you have to respect or one that let’s you slide by.

As a leader in business, your employees are asking whether they must respect you. This is not at all related to how you act as a leader. It isn’t connected to whether you yell, micromanage, demand power, use intimidation, or whether you are quiet, friendly, encouraging, or unemotional. This respect is generated, not by the way you act, but by an “attitude” that says “I expect you to do what I ask you to do, and I will do what is necessary to get you to do it.”

My wife who is a teacher tells me about some of her co-workers who never raise their voices, yet still have exceptional classroom management. Leaders who require others to do their jobs well, will get excellent performance.

What do you fill the room with?

What kind of leader are you? 

If you were brought up in a household with a controlling parent who yells, micromanages or criticizes then you may find that you withdraw from leadership. You may fill the room with fear, especially the fear of making mistakes. Failure is essential in becoming a leader. When there is no room to fail, you tend to describe your failures as successes.

Another way you may deal with this type of parenting is to view yourself incorrectly, thinking you are a different type of leader, rather than noting your lack of leadership. A 360⁰ evaluation can assess what type of leader you are and this information can help you become the leader you want to be. This requires continual, honest appraisal of where you are as a leader and some work to deal with the negative leadership you may have experienced. Appropriate coaching can help you develop a leadership style that fits your personality and business, while addressing the way in which you learned to handle fear. Being afraid is normal. Courage is moving ahead even when feeling afraid. A real problem occurs when our success or failure defines our worth in the world. When there is no room to fail, leaders are not developed.

So as you begin to look at your leadership style and what is necessary for the success of your business, I encourage you to ask yourself and those around you to honestly provide feedback as to the type of leader they perceive you to be. You may be surprised in ways that you are already an involved, hands-on leader when the situation calls for it or a guiding hand for those employees that need to go out and try their skills. In either case your capacity to assess the situation correctly and apply the leadership that your company needs will give you more possibilities for success in these trying times.


Russell Phillips, M.A., M.B.A., is a Partner with the Family Business Resource Center, which is a member of The Rawls Group. Associated with The Rawls Group since 1995, Russ’ primary focus is working with business owners, key managers and family members on the varying relational issues that impact the business legacy and their pivotal relationships. If you have questions about this article, you can email Russ at

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