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The ability to inspire and positively impact others is essential for effective leadership. When preparing for a big meeting, whether with your staff, leadership team, or clients, you focus on what to say, recall key topics, and practice your presentation so that you appear credible and compelling.

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Of course, you are well aware of this. But did you know that your use of personal space, physical gestures, posture, facial emotions, and eye contact can help, hinder, or even obstruct your influence as a leader? Here are five critical facts that every leader should understand about body language and how it affects leadership results:

1. In less than seven seconds, you make an impression.

First impressions are critical in business dealings. Once you’ve been psychologically labeled as “trustworthy” or “suspicious,” “powerful” or “submissive,” everything you do will be filtered through that lens. If someone likes you, she will look for your best qualities. If she suspects you, she will suspect everything you do. Body language has a strong influence on first impressions, which are formed in less than seven seconds. Nonverbal cues have more than four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say, according to studies. Here are a few tips to remember:

Change your attitude: People notice your attitude right away. Think about the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody before greeting a client, entering a conference room for a business meeting, or stepping on stage to make a presentation.

Smile: Leaders underutilize the good signal of smiling. A smile is an invitation, a sign of acceptance and welcome. “I’m pleasant and approachable,” it adds.

Make direct eye contact: Looking someone in the eyes transmits energy and shows attention and openness.

Make a handshake: This is the quickest approach to building trust. It is also the most efficient. According to research, it takes three hours of constant interaction to create the same level of rapport that you can.

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Slightly lean in: Leaning forward indicates that you are engaged and interested. However, be mindful of the other person’s personal space. In most business circumstances, this implies staying roughly two feet away.

2. What you say with your hands when you talk

Have you ever observed how when someone is enthusiastic about what they’re talking about, their gestures become more animated? Their hands and arms move about, reinforcing points and expressing excitement. According to studies, those who communicate by active gesturing are perceived as warm, agreeable, and dynamic, whereas those who stand still (or whose motions appear mechanical or “wooden”) are perceived as rational, cold, and analytic. That is one of the reasons why gestures are so important to a leader’s performance and why getting them right in a presentation resonates with an audience so profoundly. Leaders must be mindful of how their movements will be viewed to employ gestures effectively. Here are four popular hand motions and their messages:

Hands that are hidden: Hidden hands make you appear untrustworthy. This is one of the nonverbal cues that has been deeply embedded in our subconscious.

Animated motions: There is an intriguing relationship between hand and arm movement and energy. Increased gesticulation can help you convey greater passion and energy. Over-gesturing, on the other hand (especially when hands are raised over the shoulders), might make you appear unprofessional.

Finger Pointing: You may have seen executives make this gesture to emphasize or demonstrate authority in meetings, negotiations, or interviews. The difficulty is that forceful finger-pointing can indicate that the leader is losing control of the situation — and the motion is reminiscent of parental reprimand or playground bullying.

3. Your ability to build trust is dependent on your verbal-nonverbal alignment.

Trust is formed when what is stated and the accompanying body language are perfectly aligned. People subconsciously sense dishonesty, doubt, or (at the very least) internal turmoil if your motions do not match your verbal statement. So, when leaders say one thing and their actions indicate another, it just doesn’t make sense. When your body language does not correspond to your words, your verbal message is lost.

4. You’re missing half of the conversation if you can’t read body language.

Communication occurs through two channels – verbal and nonverbal – resulting in two unique dialogues occurring concurrently. While verbal communication is crucial, it is not the only message delivered. Without the capacity to interpret body language, we overlook important aspects of talks that can have a beneficial or negative impact on a business. When individuals aren’t fully committed to a project, leaders must be able to detect the problem and respond immediately.

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As a result, engagement and disengagement are two of the most essential cues to look for in others’ body language. Disengagement behaviors suggest boredom, anger, or defensiveness, whereas engagement actions indicate interest, receptivity, or agreement.

5. Your most effective mode of communication is (still) face-to-face.

In face-to-face interactions, our brains process a constant stream of nonverbal signs that we utilize to establish trust and professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is rich in information. We can only partially perceive what people say to us based on the language they use. The majority of the content (as well as all of the emotional complexity underlying the words) is conveyed through vocal tone, tempo, facial expressions, and other nonverbal indicators. And we rely on immediate feedback – other people’s instant answers – to determine how effectively our ideas are received.

Body language awareness is becoming an important aspect of an executive’s brand. Great leaders sit, stand, walk, and gesture with confidence, competence, and status. They also communicate nonverbal indications of warmth and empathy, which is very important when it comes to cultivating collaborative workplaces and managing change. The impact of body language cannot be overemphasized. Good body language abilities can assist you in motivating direct reports, bonding with audiences, presenting ideas with extra credibility, and honestly projecting your particular brand of charisma. That is a formidable collection of abilities for any leader to cultivate.

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This article was first published on 24th June 2022


Grace Christos Is a content creator with a proven track record of success in content marketing, online reputation management, sales strategy, and so much more.

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