Command Presence and Why it Matters
Command presence is a personal demeanor that conveys leadership and authority, and engenders trust and respect. It is manifested through physical presence, appearance and posture, alertness, awareness of surroundings, quality of communication and general confidence. It also shows in one’s level of training, and mastery of skills and subjects. In short, it is the totality of the way in which you carry yourself. And in law enforcement, command presence matters more than just about anything.
Your bearing can determine whether an encounter with a resistive subject escalates or de-escalates. It can convey to subjects, victims and onlookers whether you are in control of a situation, which in turn affects the way they react to you and behave.
While there are certain people who are pre-wired for command presence more than others, it is a quality that can be learned, practiced and cultivated. Start with your appearance. Anyone can learn to stand tall, and to look professional by being well groomed and wearing a well-maintained uniform. Take pride in yourself—looking the part is a meaningful part of the equation. if you look sharp, people will assume you are sharp.
Now, moving beyond appearance: build and show confidence by developing knowledge and mastery of the requirements of the job—law, policy and procedures. Develop competent physical skills through regular training and a strong body; physical fitness is a key building block of mental toughness (they actually go hand-in-hand). Understand nonverbal cues, especially the importance of eye contact. The eyes can suggest a lack of confidence, or even fear. Take your character, credibility and reputation seriously, and be a good example for others to follow.
Always remember that physical presence—and “presence” in general—is a factor in almost every interaction, on and off the job. Perception is reality. It’s important that the first impression you make is positive and professional, and appropriately strong. A well-presented officer who looks the part, is fit, alert and competent, can often gain control over people and situations without the need for escalation of any kind.
Finally, remember that the impressions you make will follow you throughout your career, and could be the difference in advancement, promotions or assignments. Command presence is a powerful attribute, regardless of where you are in the chain of command.
Lieutenant, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
ASP Trainer since 2015