Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D
You may have a leadership title – or tremendous leadership potential — but do you look like a leader? Influencing people’s perception of you is called impression management, and body language plays a key role.
Here are five body language hacks that make you look like a leader:
1. Start with your posture
2. Make sure you’re present
An up-and-coming manager was being groomed for a leadership position, but after attending a staff meeting, her boss took her aside. “Never do that again,” he said. “You didn’t look like you were fully present. You didn’t make eye contact with the speaker, you didn’t join the discussion, and you certainly didn’t look like a leader.”
Her boss made a valid point. You can’t project leadership presence if you aren’t perceived as being present.
At every meeting you attend, make sure you stay engaged by actively participating, making eye contact with, and orienting your body toward, whomever is speaking,
3. Use gestures that signal leadership
Leadership presence is enhanced by using smooth, controlled gestures between your waist and your shoulders. Warmth and openness are demonstrated by rotating hands with palms up at about a 45-degree angle, a way of indicating that you have nothing to hide. Moving your hands and arms away from the front of your torso is another way of indicating sincerity and security. The more you cover your body with folded arms or tightly-held hands, the more it appears you need to protect or defend yourself.
Gestures to avoid include the “fig leaf.” Most people unconsciously clasp their hands in front of their lower body, creating a protective fig leaf effect. Whenever you use this gesture, especially during a formal presentation, it indicates that you’re insecure or uncomfortable. A better choice would be to clasp your hands at waist level.
4. Sound like a leader
As a leader you can be sure that people will not only be listening to your words, they’ll be evaluating how you say what you say.
Put enough emotion in your voice to avoid a monotone delivery that sounds as if you’re bored or detached. I’ve heard leaders praise people in such a flat tone of voice that none of the recipients felt genuinely appreciated.
5. Ace your business handshake
In the workplace, warmth and welcome are transmitted by shaking hands, and this seemingly simple greeting may be what someone remembers most about meeting you. That’s because touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue.
Be aware that people are personality judgments based on the kind of handshake you have. A weak handshake may mark you as “too timid for leadership.” And the “bone crusher” — where s person squeezes too tightly – almost always gives the impression of being overbearing or insensitive. The perfect handshake is firm, with palm-to-palm contact, so that the web of you hand (the skin between your thumb and first finger) touches the web of the other person’s hand. The more skin you can contact, the more you come across as trustworthy and reliable.
Remember to offer your hand with your palm facing sideways. If you extend your hand with the palm up, it makes you look submissive. When you hold out your hand with the palm down, or if you twist your hand downward during the handshake, it sends the message that you feel superior. But when you offer your hand sideways, it sends a message of equality and self-confidence.
Try these five body language hacks. You may be surprised to find that these simple nonverbal cues can give a powerful boost your leadership presence by positively influencing the way others perceive you.
About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker on Leadership Presence and Body Language for Leaders for corporations, conventions, universities, and government agencies. Carol can be reached through her website: https://CarolKinseyGoman.com.