Body language is an important soft skill that too many in corporate America dismiss or, at the very least, undervalue. Because first impressions occur only once, leaders should be especially aware of how they initially present themselves, but need to also continue to understand the effect their body language has on their employees, as well as others in management roles. How people are perceived is heavily influenced by body language. In fact, nonverbal cues often have more of an impact on how people interpret and react to the information imparted than anything that is said.
Since physical gestures are so critical to a leader’s effectiveness, let’s take a look at how the body language of confident leaders affects all our relationships, but especially those in the workplace.
The Importance of Body Language
Your credibility, confidence, empathy, and trustworthiness will be subconsciously evaluated by those you hope to influence. The way you use your personal space, physical gestures, posture, facial expressions, and eye contact can increase, support, diminish, or even sabotage your impact as a leader. Their assessment will only be determined by what you say to a degree.
According to some studies, those who actively gesture as they speak are perceived as warm, friendly, and enthusiastic, whereas those who stand still are perceived as rational, analytical, and cold. The “improper” use of gestures by leaders (e.g., letting their hands dangle limply to the side or clasping them tightly in front of their bodies) can be interpreted as a lack of emotional involvement in the issues being discussed or a lack of conviction in the message being conveyed. It’s important to understand that voice, pitch, and tone are also considered body language behavior.
The Role Trust Plays
You can communicate more effectively by using body language to encourage trust in the workplace. Building trust and confidence with your employees is the key to establishing a successful working environment.
An alignment between what is spoken and the accompanying body language establishes trust. People will infer dishonesty, uncertainty, or (at the very least) internal conflict if your motions do not fully match your verbal communication. Since building trust depends in part on your verbal-nonverbal alignment, it’s vital to understand that the degree of warmth in your leadership style will encourage trust and security in the workplace.
How to Apply Confident Body Language
Although this connection between what people say and what they do while they’re saying it may not have been blatantly apparent to you before, you instinctively recognized it. If you look confident before you speak, others will see you as self-assured and assertive and vice versa. Leaders who strive to skillfully communicate in challenging situations with their team members – as well as with others – may need a few tips to reach their goal. Here are some actionable steps you can take now to practice confident body language in your everyday life:
- Watch your posture and ensure you enter every space with confidence; commanding respect without demanding it.
- Maintain good eye contact and focus on the person who is speaking or with whom you are communicating.
- Lean in slightly to indicate interest. Negative feelings or disengagement are usually indicated by leaning back.
- Smile, nod, and respond appropriately in acknowledgement of the speaker.
- Be assertive and direct, but adjust your attitude if you find yourself becoming aggressive.
- Be mindful of the body language of others. What are you inferring from their actions or tone of voice?
Confident Body Language is a Leadership Superpower
We perceive leaders as more honest and with a greater degree of integrity when they exhibit confidence. Leaders who lack assertiveness are often regarded as ineffective, despite the fact that they may have good judgment. Assertive behavior is characterized by respect for oneself and others, while aggression is about dominance and power. Work on finding the balance: maintain a quiet confidence without being arrogant or aggressive. If assertiveness is insufficient, passivity may occur; if assertiveness is excessive, aggressive behavior may result.
Confident body language is a powerful leadership tool. If you are interested in developing a confident presence and becoming a more influential leader, let’s schedule a breakthrough session.