Have you ever bought a raffle ticket, entered a sweepstakes, or dropped your business card into a fishbowl in hopes of winning a prize? If so, you probably saw the words “need not be present to win” written somewhere nearby (on your ticket, on the fish bowl, etc.). The reason for that is that sweepstakes, lotteries, and drawings are about volume. They are transactional, not personal. They are about making it as easy as possible for the masses to participate. The people designing these games of chance know that if they require you stick around…to be present… you probably won’t participate. After all, you have places to be, important people to see, and urgent things to do, right? Well, here’s the thing; leadership is not transactional. It’s not about volume. Leadership is personal. It’s about individuals. It’s about others. Leadership is not a game of chance. In leadership, you must be present to win…and not just in the traditional sense of the word.

The dictionary defines present as “in a particular place; existing or occurring in a place”. A student can be present in class. A word can be present in an article. A storm can be present in the mountains. But being present as a leader is different. Being present as a leader is about more than location; it’s about more than just showing up. Being present as a leader is about intention and focus as well. Being present as a leader is about service. I’ve experienced present leadership firsthand. I’ve experienced it in the boardroom, on the battlefield, and in the mountains. And, it’s been life-changing. The present leader was the Marine Colonel who gave me (a lowly, Second Lieutenant) his personal cell number when I checked into my unit and said, “Call me anytime, day or night, if you need anything at all”. The present leader is the guide who has kept me on belay long after we’ve summited, helping my family transition to a new life in a new town. The present leader is the boss who said, “I’m proud of you”, despite my recent mistakes. Which brings me to my point, and my challenge for you.

Think about the last time you were with a teammate or client. Were you really present during your conversation? Were you speaking or listening? Were you asking or telling? Did you look into the person’s eyes or at your IPhone more often? Was your intent to help or to demand? Were you curious or certain? Did the other person walk away feeling valued or feeling diminished? Did they feel connected or disconnected?

Based on your answers, consider these questions as well. What prevented you from being present? What were the consequences…to you and to the other person? What can you do to be more present moving forward? And then, get started being present! If you do, I can guarantee you’ll see the benefits. As a leader you will be more informed, more aware, and make better decisions. Your people will see the benefits as well. They will be more understood, more engaged, and make better decisions too. And, they’ll be more likely to willingly follow your lead!

Leadership is not a game of chance. As a leader, your decisions change lives. Therefore, you can’t just show up in the same way you would show up to a raffle…to a drawing from a fishbowl. As a leader, you must be present to win.