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on February 16, 2004
At weLEAD we naturally receive hundreds of books on the subject of leadership from virtually every perspective and approach. We will give Leadership Presence credit for a truly novel and effective approach. Unlike most leadership authors Belle Linda Halpren and Kathy Lubar do not come from a strictly business school, military or academic background. It may be the very reason why this book is so enjoyable to read! The authors are highly skilled actresses and taught acting skills in Repertory Theater. Many of the students they had were various professionals including teachers, doctors, businesspeople and others. Because these individuals were able to use the theatre skills they acquired effectively in the workplace, the authors founded the Ariel Group in 1992. Since that time the Ariel Group has presented workshops to over 30,000 executives. This book is a result of that effort and the results achieved.

The main theme of Leadership Presence is simple yet profound. The authors define Leadership Presence as the "ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others in order to motivate and inspire them to achieve a desired outcome". Throughout the book you will find a special emphasis on the word "authentic". This is not a book about motivating or manipulating others by using acting skills or pretence. It is a book that focuses on learning to authentically connect with the minds and hearts of others to effectively lead. Far too many business leaders conduct themselves in ways they think their executive roles require, rather than being themselves based on their heartfelt values. The result is that they come across as inauthentic and this breeds a lack of trust. The authors spend an admirable amount on the importance of values and introduce the reader to what they call the PRES Model of Leadership Presence.

Leadership Presence was written to teach techniques that will help the leader to motivate, inspire and reach out to others. It will help the reader to enhance relationships, build collaboration and flexibly deal with challenging situations. The book is composed of nine chapters divided into four sections suitably called "Acts". Act I discusses how one can learn to be completely in the moment. Act II analyzes the skills available to build relationships. Act III examines the appropriate way to express emotions and feelings. Act IV focuses on being yourself and reflecting your values in your behavior. Most chapters end with a section on exercises or practice guidelines to cement the information taught in the preceding chapter. Numerous personal stories and examples provided by the authors keep the material interesting and practical.

If you are new to the study of leadership you will enjoy this book. If you have read dozens of books on the study of leadership, you will love this book because it views this complex subject from a truly innovative and helpful angle. Sometimes we can get so immersed in a subject we can't "see the forest for the trees". Leadership Presence is one of those unique books that will help you to step back and see the forest because it gets to the very heart of leadership...authentic behavior and values.
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Why is it when some actors take the stage they automatically command the attention of the audience? It doesn't matter if they are not the most important part of the scene - they still command the audience's attention even when in the background. These people have a sense of presence; their very being and bearing demands respect. That ability to command respect is what this book is about. How does a real leader create this sense of presence such that he or she automatically has the attention and respect of those they lead?
The authors define presence as "the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others". While business has generally ignored this sense of presence and assumed that people will be led simply because they are employees, the acting profession lives or dies by this sense of presence. Business is now struggling to create loyal employees who think for theirselves and have a sense of being a part of a larger community. Business is looking for great leaders.
To help find or create these great leaders there has been a plethora of books about the attributes of great leaders; they communicate well, they treat others as important, etc. The difference between most management or leadership books and this one can best be illustrated by the art of dance. A good dancer can be mechanically perfect. Every twist, every turn, every leap is exactly as it should be, but still the dance is boring. On the other hand a dancer who truly feels and moves to the music as it were a part of their self creates a thing of beauty to see. That is where this book differentiates itself from the other books on leadership. The others are typically descriptions of what makes good leaders - the mechanics of the perfect dance. This book helps the leader to establish a sense of presence that in turn causes a sense of immediate respect in others - the dancer who feels the music.
At the end of each chapter are exercises to help the reader to learn to apply the lessons. The authors fill a deep chasm in management theory with this book. "Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire" is a highly recommended read and required reading for those in leadership positions of any kind.
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on October 31, 2003
I found the highly readable Leadership Presence to be satisfying on many levels. It is enjoyable to read, with many grippping stories that support the authors' discussion of what makes an effective leader. It feels useable, as it has practical applications listed at the end of each chapter, written clearly as exercizes that anyone could do. The authors have a great deal of experience working with a wide variety of buisnesses, large and small,and they draw from this wealth of experience in presenting their innovative approach to the art of leadership.
This book outlines the principles of acting and applies them to what it takes to be an effective leader; even more, on what it takes to be an effective person in any realm in communicating with others. I related strongly to the ideas in this book -- as a drama teacher, as one who works with middle schoolers and a community of teachers and parents, and even as a mother of two daughters. Even though I was familiar with many of the ideas that related to acting, I saw these ideas presented in a different context, and I believe the book will be a great reference for me in work and in the rest of my life. I plan to give a copy to my middle school principal, and to my rabbi--as I was reading, I thought of many people who would enjoy and benefit from this book. I highly recommend it!
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on October 29, 2003
The first few paragraphs of the Foreword by Warren Bennis tip you off that Leadership Presence is an unusual and heady business leadership book.
Authors Halpern and Lubar are convincing and clear. Their anecdote-filled guide is profound without being heavy or treacly. Leadership Presence offers meaty chapters and practical exercises that are fun and helpful to readers, suggestive of the benefits to corporate groups who take Ariel Group seminars - and often keep coming back for more.
Halpern and Lubar are classy and serious with just enough humor to make this different self-improvement book an exhilarating read. Inspiring, almost like a novel with characters you care about, Leadership Presence is amazing. You won't be able to put it down.
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on October 10, 2003
"Another book on leadership", I thought - "Do I really need to add yet another to my imposing collection of hastily read, never consulted, ever-growing collection?", I thought. My answer was a resounding "No", ... until I noticed the words "dramatic techniques" on the cover. As a long-time theater lover, my interest was piqued. When I discovered the authors were not academicians or businessmen, but professional actors, I was hooked. Now this promised to be something different - and it is: "Leadership Presence" is an entertaining, page-turning, insightful, multi-layered, inspiring, pragmatic book on leadership! In the immortal words of Swoosie Kurtz in "Uncommon Women & Others", "Who woulda thunk it?"
I have intuitively thought there was a connection between the stage and the boardroom, but couldn't have put it into words. Drawing upon their professional theater training, consulting experience and personal beliefs, Ms. Lubar and Halpern have put a fresh and much-needed twist on leadership.
In my heart of hearts, I truly thought leaders are born, not made - and those of us who were "charisma-challenged " could never aspire to inspire. After reading "Leadership Presence", I have hope. Whether quoting Shakespeare or David Gergen, Lao-tzu or Woody Allen, the message is clear: effective leaders/actors know & live by their beliefs, are fully present in the moment, show their passion and reach out to others. Makes perfect sense.
That insight alone got me to second base, but no home run. What really hit it out of the ballpark was the exercises/practices at the end of each chapter. These well-laid out, real world "to-do's" show us leader-wannabes how to apply the principles to our lives and make little, incremental changes in attitude and behavior, one step at a time. I might have to amend my "leaders are born" belief. I hope so. In the meantime, I can have fun reading about Kenneth Brannagh's preparation for Henry V and Martha Graham's philosophy of unique movement.
Now that's a book on leadership worth getting, reading and referring to. With teachers like Laurence Olivier and Meryl Streep, how can I go wrong? Hhmm.. Maybe I'll leave it on my nightstand.
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on November 12, 2003
I found "Leadership presence" to be very inspiring not only for leaders and managers but for every human being engaged in the business of life! As a teacher, mother and grand-mother, I am using some of the skills offered in the book with my students and family and finding them more than useful: profound. This book is not just another "how to" book, it comes from deeper waters of presence and compassion. Plus it is fun to read, full of great stories. A gem.
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on December 28, 2007
Much more than a book on becoming a "polished" executive. I used this book with a client who is the youngest exec in his high tech firm, and we found the chapters to be helpful in his overall leadership development. I appreciated the author's writing on leadership thinking and outlook as well has the suggestions on external behaviors that communicate "presence". Ultimately, presence comes from within.
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on March 21, 2008
This book is a good value. I was a little unsure about it when I heard it was a leadership book based on acting, but the connections to acting are very well done. It really focuses on the depth and feeling behind acting and genuineness of being a leader. And not in a hokey way. Great stories. Great exercises. Great examples. An easy read and a good one, too.
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on October 12, 2012
Many times I would hear sr management talking about having presence, I knew I had it when leading meetings or presentations but thought some extra reading on the subject would be great. This book was wonderful, easy to ready, and provided a lot of guidance.
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on November 25, 2012
I came across this book because one of the authors, Belle Linda Halpern, was one of my singing coaches. A talented musical storyteller and interpreter of cabaret song, she's also a savvy business woman and communication trainer. She helps business leaders apply performance skills to their presenting and organizational communication. "Leadership Presence" shares her ideas through the experiences of those she has worked with.

The paradox of great performance is that it requires authenticity and vulnerability. For a performance to work, it can't be "performed" but must be grounded in real character, feelings, and values. Belle Linda gets this - and shares it with those fortunate enough to learn from her.

As I become more and more involved in coaching presenters, I'm rereading this book, published in 2003, and finding it even more valuable the second time around. I'd say it's well worth the investment of time to gain the authors' valuable perspective.
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