How to Be Both Loved and Respected (Via Your Body Language)

January 25, 2017

This woman is doing the classic steeple gesture, a body language technique that commands respect but can be seen as silly if overused.

In 1513, renowned political science Niccolo Machiavelli asked a question that has been debated ever since: is it more important for a leader to be feared or loved?

The reality is, no leader should be feared. If that’s the emotion they are trying to convey, the leader is likely a tyrant (with the exception being Michael Scott, who only wanted people to be fearful of how much they loved him).

A better question is if it is more important to be respected or loved. Respected meaning that people actually listen to what the leader has to say, with loved meaning their employees would run through a wall to make it happen.

So what’s more important, being loved or respected? Well, the answer is obvious: both. The best leaders are both loved and respected by their employees.

Okay, so how do you do that? Well, there are a lot of aspects to being both loved and respected. But in her incredibly helpful course Body Language for Leaders, LinkedIn Learning Instructor Carol Kinsey Goman gave body language tips for both conveying confidence and for conveying openness and a willingness to collaborate.

Three body language techniques that command respect

Let’s start with conveying confidence. These three body language techniques will make you appear confident and command respect:

    1. Sit tall.

When you are sitting and you want to look confident, sit tall. How do you do that?

You can try it right now if you are sitting down. Pull your shoulders back, bring your elbows away from your body, uncross your legs and place your feet solidly on the floor. Not only will this pose make others see you like a leader, it’ll make you feel more confident internally as well.

    2. Claim your space.

Leadership presence is non-verbally displayed in the use of height and space, Goman said. But that doesn’t mean you need to actually be tall, you just need to claim your space.

For example, if people are seated at a conference table, stand while you speak. And walk around while you speak. Even if you are sitting, spread out your belongings on the table to claim more space, Goman said.

    3. Use confident gestures.

To be seen as a leader you need to use hand gestures like a leader. And that means using smooth, controlled, waist-level gestures with your hands and arms.

Some other popular gestures that’ll give you executive presence:

  • When you want to take control of a situation, use palm-down gestures.
  • The steeple gesture – when you bring your hands together in front of you to form a triangle – is a classic power move. However, using it too much makes you look staged and insincere, Goman warned.
  • Moving your hands and arms away from your body when talking is another way to demonstrate a high level of confidence, security and trust.
  • Don’t cover your body with folded or clasped arms. It appears like you need to protect yourself and are not confident in the situation.

Three body language techniques that make people feel comfortable

It’s great to be respected by your people. But then there are times to express openness, to encourage collaboration.

To help you there, Goman gave these three body language techniques that’ll make make others feel comfortable around you and encourage their participation:

    1. Have open body language.

When you want to encourage collaboration, you should employ open body language. That means, when you are sitting, to have your legs uncrossed, your arms held away from your body and your palms exposed or resting comfortably on the table in front of you.

    2.    Lean in – after a bit.

When you want your team to collaborate, leaning backward signals dislike or negativity and therefore should be avoided, Goman said. However, learning forward when you immediately meet someone – especially if you are both standing – can make the other person feel uncomfortable.

So, lean in after a bit, when the person has become more comfortable with you. Also, leaning in when you are sitting down shows you are engaged and listening to what others are saying.

    3. Face people directly when talking with them.

If you want people to feel comfortable around you, face them directly, Goman said. Even a quarter-turn away from a person can make them feel uncomfortable and gives off the impression you don't care about what they have to say.

Additionally, nod when they are talking, as research shows people will talk three to four times more than usual if a person nods along as they are talking.

The takeaway

There’s a time and place for all of these gestures. Sometimes, you need to demand respect from your people, and you can use the tips in the first section. Other times, you need to encourage their ideas and make them feel comfortable, and you can use the tips in the second section.

As far as when and where, that’s up to you. But most importantly, you need to be aware of your body language, and have it correspond with the aura you are looking to give off.

The following article details just one lesson from Goman’s LinkedIn Learning class, Body Language for Leaders. To watch the entire class for free and be incepted with all her body language wisdom, click here.