How to Be A Collaborative and Influential Leader (Using Body Language)
November 4, 2019
Think of the best leaders you know. They stand tall, hold eye contact, and use their hands to make a point—all body language cues that signal confidence and authority.
But in today’s collaborative workplace culture, you may also notice that strong leaders communicate empathy and warmth. It’s not an easy balance.
Try these simple strategies to ensure your body language projects the authority and empathy your organization is looking for in a leader.
#1 Keep your body relaxed
“Leaders with open body language are perceived more positively, and are more persuasive,” says Kinsey Goman.
Convey you’re receptive by uncrossing your arms and legs. You can also use gestures—for example, hands out in front of you with palms exposed—to present yourself as warm and engaged. (If your hands remain still or hang stiffly by your side, you’re more likely to be seen as indifferent or cold.)
#2 Lean forward
Leaning forward is a great way to show you’re engaged and interested, particularly when you’re sitting down. Sitting back can be seen as a sign of disinterest or negativity, so remind yourself to lean in to the conversation!
#3 Face people directly
“When it comes to the body language of inclusion, facing people directly when they're talking is crucial,” says Kinsey Goman.
Rotating your shoulders even a quarter turn away signals a lack of interest and can make the speaker shut down. So when you notice this happening, square up your shoulders and orient your body toward the people you’re speaking with.
Remember to also remove anything that creates a barrier between you and others, and move your laptop, purse or briefcase to the side.
Mirroring—or matching another person’s stance, gestures, and facial expressions—is another non-verbal way of building connection.
Oftentimes, this is done subconsciously around people you genuinely like and agree with. The trick is to adopt it in less agreeable interactions.
Challenge yourself to mirror the body language of someone you disagree with, and see if it helps foster a different level of understanding.
#5 Nod along
People will talk three to four times more than usual when the listener nods their head. So the
next time you want to encourage a new team member or shy colleague to keep talking, try nodding your head using clusters of three nods.
Head tilting—the universal sign of ‘giving someone your ear’—is another positive cue that you’re listening closely to the speaker.
#6 Be present
If you think it makes you look important or productive to constantly check your smartphone or scroll through emails on your laptop, think again. Not only is it rude and distracting, but it makes you lose all credibility once you finally decide to join the conversation.
As Kinsey Goman explains, “You can't project leadership presence if you aren't perceived as being present.”
Commit to staying present in every meeting and conversation by actively listening, making positive eye contact, and managing your body language to communicate you’re coming from a place of both authority and empathy.
Check out Carol Kinsey Goman’s course, Body Language for Leaders, for more resources on how body language can help you make a positive first impression, convey confidence, and communicate effectively in different cultural settings.
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