This week I’ve been coaching leaders from an international sports brand. They have deep knowledge and experience in their area. One question that has surfaced is ‘How can we make sure that we are communicating with authority?’
Leaders take up more space
From the great ape to the peacock, when we demonstrate leadership (though we call them dominance cues in the nonverbal world), we take up more space.
Watch people in your next meeting:
- Who spreads out their belongings across the table?
- Who has a wide stance?
- Who drapes their arm over the chair next to theirs?
Leaders move slowly
Think of a movie where the king or queen enters the room.
- What is their pace?
- Is is faster or slower than those around them?
Leaders take their time.
This may be a reflection of how our body reacts when we get into a power pose. Our sense of competence rises, with an increase in testosterone, but it’s the reduction of cortisol that is most interesting because it reduces our reactivity to stress.
If we are less reactive to stress, we can make better decisions, and this makes us stand out as leaders.
Leaders’ gestures are larger
A funny thing happens when we experience a stress-response. Our instinct is to protect ourselves. It’s a good instinct to have if we are about to fall over…we can protect our vital organs, and do less damage to ourselves as a result.
Unfortunately, this reaction kicks in when we are presenting in front of groups of people, and it means we restrict our gestures. We also restrict our gestures when we are lying, or do not have full confidence in what we are saying. For most presenters, that means that if we are to look more confident, we need to practise larger gestures to support our content.
Try to get some space around your armpits at some point during your presentation. This will help to remind you to open up your gestures.
See the nonverbals (body language) of leadership in action:
This video contrasts Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama speaking, with the nonverbals commentated by Joe Navarro.