Organizational Presence in Action

Posted 09.19.2008

At the risk of looking like the president of the Henry Paulson Fan Club, I have to come back to the topic of the leadership lessons we can learn from how the Treasury secretary and his colleagues are working together to rescue the economy.

My research for The Next Level led to a model of executive presence that breaks things down to three categories:

  1. Personal Presence: how you view yourself and others view you
  2. Team Presence: how you lead and leverage your functional team
  3. Organizational Presence: how you work with other leaders

In my post on Monday, I cited a number of examples of how Paulson is showing personal presence in the midst of the current crisis.  Wednesday's Wall Street Journal highlighted his expertise in the category of team presence.  My research shows that the first step in developing this is to let go of self reliance and pick up team reliance.  Paulson understands the things that only he can do in his role of Secretary of the Treasury and has assembled a core team of trusted advisors to take the lead in supporting roles such as corporate restructuring, policy formulation, structuring bailout plans and recruiting key talent.

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Finally, this morning's Washington Post details Paulson's mastery of organizational presence.  The foundation of that characteristic is to not just look up and down the chain of command but to also look left and right to work collaboratively with leadership colleagues.  In their article, David Cho and Neil Irwin tell the story of how Paulson is working in tandem with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake and New York Fed President, Tim Geithner to set the overall strategy of the restructuring process and to bring all the key parties together to take action.  These three leaders each bring unique experience and strength to the table that is critical to developing short and long term solutions.  Paulson summed up their approach in this comment to the Post:

"The biggest thing is we are not competing with each other, we are working together…I would say they have done so much to help me, and I would do anything to help them."

Not many leaders have to deal with the stakes that Paulson, Bernake and Geither are dealing with this week.  If they can handle their challenges with a unified and collaborative apporach under such pressure, it makes me wonder what the opportunities are for other leaders to take it to the next level by emulating their example. 

What are your thoughts?