Self Help

4 lessons on leadership presence from Mike Trout – Fast Company

Watching a baseball game taught me more about leadership presence than any self-help book

Establishing a daily routine can go a long way.

Watching a baseball game taught me more about leadership presence than any self-help book
[Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images]

I recently asked one of my clients, a leader of the Minnesota Twins organization, who the greatest player is in baseball today. Without even a second of hesitation, my client responded, “Mike Trout.”

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“What makes him so great?” I asked.

“Just watch him,” he said. “You’ll see.”

So when Mike Trout came to town with the L.A. Angels, I got tickets—front row, on my left. The more I watched him, the more I realized how much he could teach us all about building leadership presence. Here are the lessons that I took away.

1. It’s important to look where you’re going

When Mike walked from the dugout, he looked down and kept his focus on where he was going. He didn’t look at the catcher or the score. He focused on where he was going.

As a leader, you have to do the same when you walk into a meeting or walk onstage. You too have to look where you’re going. You need to resist the temptation to look immediately at your audience, the lights, or the windows. Although they might seem like small distractions, giving in to them can be high risks. You can become distracted and lose your train of thought, and there’s also the possibility of tripping, something you don’t want hanging over your head before you give a talk.

2. Appreciate the power of a routine

When Mike Trout came to the plate, he tapped his bat the same way each time—same place, same timing. By establishing this routine, he was getting in sync with his rhythm.

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You too need a routine to establish your rhythm. When you sit, think about settling in that chair where you want to put your balance point, and how you put your stuff on the table. When you walk onto a stage for a town hall, think about how many steps you want to take. When do you stop? When do you turn to face your audience? Where do you put your hands? When do you bring them up?

It’s incredible what establishing a routine can do. When you get into a rhythm, you’ll feel in command of your self. As a result, it becomes easier to take control of the room or your audience, no matter what your circumstances are.

3. Be centered in your posture

When Mike Trout raised his bat, he was balanced on both feet. He was centered. You need to apply the same mentality before you speak. You too have to be centered and ready.

So when you sit in your chair, find the balance point. Sit so that you are centered and move side to side in a smooth way. It’s tempting to slouch back, get comfortable, and lean on your elbow. But while all these postures may make you feel more comfortable, they can also make you more awkward and crumpled, and that’s not the image you want to portray.

When you walk into a meeting where you have to stand, stay balanced. Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed and connected to the floor. Try doing a knee bend and come up slowly and feel the weight of your feet on the floor. When you feel grounded, you also look grounded. So resist the temptation to cross your legs or perch on one foot.

4. Be prepared to react

Mike Trout instantly adjusts to the ball coming at him. You too have to be prepared to change with the energy coming at you when you enter a space. Sometimes that requires you to stray from your plan if you know that there’s a better way to engage the audience.

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If you join a meeting, what’s coming at you? If everyone is quiet, how’s the energy? How should you adjust your energy to be more relaxed? If teammates are having conversations, should you pause before you jump into the conversation? If there is high-energy laughter, should you walk in quietly?

Just as Mike Trout has to adjust to every pitch, you need to be prepared to shift your tempo and your energy. You need to pay close attention to what’s going on and make small adjustments so you can enter a meeting with a leadership presence that is commanding.

Leadership presence isn’t something that you’re automatically born with. It’s something that you train and cultivate, like a muscle. By paying attention to these things, and practicing them regularly, you can build the habits that it takes to command your audience, no matter what meeting or presentation you’re in.

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