Quite a few years ago, I had to attend a boring lunch reception and speech for work. I didn’t want to be there. The last thing I wanted was to be social with a bunch of strangers that had—at best–only a tangential connection to my work.

When I entered the room, the woman at the front desk handed me a slip of paper that contained the number for the table where I would sit. When I approached the table, it was full. Only one space was left beside an older gentleman, so I sat down.

The man looked at me, and to my surprise he said, “Well, hello there! We’ve been waiting for you to join us!” That was nice, I thought. No sooner had I put a spoonful of soup in my mouth than the man turned to me again and said, “I want to hear all about you. Tell me all about your life and your work.” He paused. “Oh, I’m sorry I asked you a question when you just took a bite. I’ll wait then. But I know it’s going to be fabulous!

Now, that really changed my attitude. Suddenly, I perked up. This stranger was interested in what I had to say! I found myself talking about my work and my family. Then, he shared information about himself and his work. By the end of lunch, I was engaged, appreciative and energized. And it had to do with how this person decided to show up.

Deciding how to show up at work is a key technique I’ve learned about being a successful leader. You may be having a bad day. You may be frustrated and tired and stressed. Well, guess what? If you show up to work that way, people are going to treat you as someone who is frustrated, tired and stressed.

What if you decide to show up present, fully alert and engaged? What if you decide to show up imagining that you are the leader that everyone is relying on? What if you decide to show up ready to listen to your colleagues and ask meaningful questions? Would you be perceived differently at work? You betcha!

The way we decide to show up at work, regardless of how we feel internally, determines how others perceive us. It can be the difference between being seen as a leader or being seen as a liability.

The next time you walk into work, ask yourself: How will I show up today?

Are you going to hold your head high? Are you going to be alert and attentive to your colleagues? Are you going to be enthusiastic about your work? These are traits of a leader, wouldn’t you agree? If you’re exhibiting your best self when you show up to work, you’ll be perceived as your best self.

So, go out there and show up as a leader. You have nothing to lose.