As a young college student paying my way through school, I worked in a foods warehouse for Hershey Park. It was a great place to work, and even better, there were some great benefits which came along with the job. First, you could get into the park for free at any time when off of work. Second, you could golf for free (if into that sort of thing) on the world renowned west course which often hosted PGA events. And lastly, working in the foods warehouse often meant running into celebrities. Well, they weren’t technically visiting us, but rather Hershey’s Star Pavilion and summer concert series would often park the celebrity buses beside our loading docks. One afternoon, while taking a break and eating my brown bag lunch on our old picnic table, a new bus began to park. Unlike most, this bus did not have any branding or logos painted on the outside. Once parked, it only took a few minutes until someone emerged. All of a sudden, standing before me was Gene Simmons, from the band Kiss. With apple in hand, Gene made the fifteen feet walk from the bus door to my old picnic table while asking, “Would it be alright to sit and eat with you?” The next 20 minutes of my break was interesting to say the least. Talk about the “it” factor!
This past week while reading Making Room For Leadership: Power, Space and Influence by MaryKate Morse, I was struck by what the author speaks of as the “it” factor, or more specifically the art of presence. While sitting and talking with Gene Simmons that day, I knew there was something different, yet as a twenty year old, I wasn’t quite sure how to articulate his presence. While reading the “it” factor on presence and body power this week the following three principles began to emerge in regards to my meeting that day with Gene, as well as, key understandings I need to be aware of in any leadership setting for myself.
3 Keys to “it”
Personal History… The 6 ft. 2 inch Israeli born Gene Simmons did not speak of his band Kiss that day. In fact, after asking him where he was from, he went on to passionately talk about his homeland Israel. Not long after birth was moved to New York City, where as a young boy learned Hebrew and studied the Old Testament scriptures. It was fascinating to say the least. He spoke with passion, resolve and great clarity. He also was quick to ask about my background and life.
Body Presence… How we carry ourselves communicates a great deal about who we are and what we have to say. As Gene walked up to the table that day, I noticed his height. Though he is tall at 6ft. 2 inches, he also where another inch heel on his shoes. Once seated, he sat straight with confidence, no slouching. He was fully present in physicality and the conversation.
Eye Contact… For many in 2014, eye contact is a rare commodity. On that day in 1993 talking with Gene, he looked me straight in the eyes. For a person I just met, I was impacted by his intentionality of interest, questions and most of all, eye contact. Powerful then in 1993, I sense the “it” factor power of presence through eye contact in 2014 could even be more powerful.
My shift wasn’t over, but my lunch was. In parting I thanked him for the time. One which I’m only beginning to understand with more clarity all these years later.