Learning Commanding Presence

January 17, 2023


By Melanie Lentz

At twenty-two, I became a Secret Service agent, one of the youngest females ever hired. I had no previous military or law enforcement experience. As a shy introvert, I lacked assertiveness, and taking charge of a situation didn’t come naturally.

“You lack command presence,” instructors said.

I thought this meant I simply didn’t look like a typical Secret Service agent. I wasn’t the biggest or strongest in the room with the loudest, bellowing voice.

Early in training, my class had a combative test involving a fight with a would-be assassin.

“Stop being so tentative or you’re going home,” instructors said.

On test day, fear had me literally shaking in my combat boots. When my name was called, one instructor made a show of clicking his red pen at me as if to say he already knew I’d fail.

I stepped into the middle of the room, knowing the fight was on.

All eyes were on me.

The assailant charged me, and I fought with all my might. I screamed louder than I’d ever screamed. I hit harder than I’d ever hit. I didn’t let up, and I certainly didn’t quit.

Who is this person, and where has she been all this time? I thought.

When the test was finally over, my classmates stared, mouths agape. Was that a good sign? I wasn’t sure. Relief replaced my fear when I was told I’d passed.

Today, I speak about my experiences as a young Secret Service agent. Every time I get on stage, I remember the shy, inexperienced girl who didn’t know what she had to offer.

Discovering my commanding presence showed me far more than my inner fighter. It showed me a commanding presence is not about being the biggest, most experienced, or loudest in the room. It’s about showing up even when the doubters include myself sometimes.

Commanding presence is most powerful when authenticity trumps volume, eloquence, and experience. I don’t have all of the answers. But learning to protect others showed me the most meaningful approach is to always be fiercely and unapologetically real. 

Melanie Lentz, Former Secret Service Special Agent (2007-2016)

Contact Info:

760-887-3046 (cell)

[email protected]

www.melanielentz.com – links to previous media

Memoir: Agent Innocent: How the Secret Service Changed My Life (2019)

Coming Soon: Advance Work: A Personal Protection Assignment 7-Day Workbook (May 1, 2021)

Education: B.S. and M.S. in Kinesiology, NSCA CSCS Certification

Melanie was one of the youngest female agents ever hired by the Secret Service at age twenty-two. She worked in the Los Angeles Field Office for approximately eight years where she worked financial crime cases, protective intelligence (threats against protectees), and countless protection operations for presidential campaigns, visiting foreign dignitaries, and current and former presidents and their families. Her last assignment was Former First Lady Nancy Reagan. She was the agent in the embalming room and a pallbearer at the private family funeral. At the time, she was going through a divorce, depression, and an eating disorder relapse. She left the Secret Service shortly after Mrs. Reagan’s passing after realizing it was time to start protecting herself as well as she protected others. Melanie is also one of the only females to pass the Secret Service Rescue Swimmer Course.

You may also like...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}


Be the first to know when we host events, webinars, and publish new content