Although there are many nonverbal strategies that help you look like a leader, there are gender, situational, and cultural differences that impact their effectiveness.
But one body language truth is universal: You are the most convincing, motivating and charismatic when your body language reflects your best authentic self.
You probably already realize that it isn’t any less authentic to be seen at your best than it is to display your worst (or sloppiest) behaviours. A problem only arises if you confuse authenticity with habit.
For example, you may slouch because you have always had poor posture, but that doesn’t make it authentic; it simply makes it a habit – and, by the way, not a habit that serves you well. As a leader, your posture affects how people perceive you. Poor body posture makes you look as though you are bored, uninterested or unmotivated – which I assume is not the impression you want to project to your boss, customers, and colleagues.
On the other hand, if you served in the military, marched in a band, or took ballet lessons, you already formed the habit of standing tall and holding your shoulders back, which sends nonverbal signals of energy and confidence.
So let me ask you: Do you have a communication habit that gets in the way of being perceived as the talented leader you are? To manage the impression you make, think through these questions:
- What is one habit you’d like to change because it undermines your best authentic self? Maybe you’re like a client of mine – a brilliant and shy manager who spoke in a low, almost inaudible, voice during meetings. While her shyness was valid, her habitual way of speaking was a behaviour that didn’t authentically reflect her intellect and leadership potential.
- What is the new habit you’d like to create? It helps if you mentally “rehearse” – creating a powerful image of yourself displaying the new behaviour. Each time you repeat this visualization, you come one step closer to making that a reality.
- What trigger will you use to remind yourself to display this behaviour? Try the “When – Then” trigger technique, in which a normal part of your routine becomes the reminder. For example, if you wanted to display more of your natural warmth during a virtual meeting, you might state it like this: WHEN I greet people at the start of the meeting, THEN I smile and call them by name.
It takes time and repetition to create a new habit. But it’s worth it. As you practice and become comfortable with your new behaviour, you are in the process of transforming people’s impression so that you STAND OUT as your best authentic self.
Here is a link to my best-selling LinkedIn Learning video course Body Language for Leaders.
Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, is an executive coach, consultant, and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. She is also the author of STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence. For interview requests, click here.
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