Sure, some people start out in respiratory care thinking all they really want to do is take care of sick people. They have no desire to get involved in managing their coworkers or leading a department. They know their life’s work will be at the bedside. And there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, therapists who devote themselves to patient care are the lifeblood of the profession.

But others see themselves moving up the ranks in the department – or even in the hospital itself. And for that you need more than just good patient care skills. You need more than the ability to think critically. You need more than the drive to succeed.

You need a leadership presence.

But what, exactly, is that? According to a book titled “Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence,” it really boils down to two key factors. One, you must be able to demonstrate your true value to those you are hoping to lead. And two, you have to connect with your stakeholders – in this case, your fellow RTs in the department.

In order to accomplish those goals, the authors emphasize you must come across as authentic. Successful leaders are comfortable in their own skin, and they are able to get their message across while genuinely connecting with other people.  

So, for example, if you are charged with implementing a change in the department, you don’t dictate that “this is how it is now going to be.” Instead, you listen to those who will be affected by the change. You work to understand where they’re coming from and what their issues with the change will be. And you let them know you hear their concerns and will do your best to mitigate them as the change is being put into place.

In other words, step into your subordinates’ shoes and see the world from their perspective before forging ahead with your leadership goals.

In their book the authors of “Own the Room” offer two great examples of well-known leaders who illustrate these points. The first is Al Gore, who was often criticized during his unsuccessful bid for president for being inauthentic and unable to connect with people.

But in the global warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” he surprised his critics with his genuine concern about the environment and his ability to convey that concern to the public.

The second is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. Despite his relatively mild-mannered disposition, he still takes control of any room he is in, thanks to his authentic ability to communicate his vision in a way that makes people listen.

The take home message: leadership presence isn’t as much about taking charge as it is about letting people see the real you and then connecting with them and inspiring them to follow.