Leadership Communication: What Science Reveals

Some leaders are naturally great communicators and seem to intuitively know how to inspire followers. Others, well, at least in my work coaching individuals, have to study and learn how to master leadership communications.

“We create a leader to make us feel safe and to give us a group purpose or direction. Because, like a group of fish or birds or zebra, we need and want guidance.” ~ Nick Morgan, Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact (Harvard Business Review Press, 2014)

Everyone can be coached to learn how to communicate like a leader – how to inspire and influence through powerful leadership messages. Most leaders I work with try to focus on their words, crafting a great message. But, as counterintuitive as it may seem, their efforts are misdirected. Great leadership communication happens largely through nonverbal cues. It’s like a dance with listeners.

We are more communal than we’d like to think. As humans evolved, we depended on one another for survival. Leadership was essential and instinctive. We knew who we could trust for guidance, even before we mastered language.

Nonverbal communication was vital — and still is. Recent scientific breakthroughs have changed conventional wisdom about how we communicate with others, how we interpret what they say and how we discern leadership potential. Some of the more interesting findings include:

  • We gesture before we consciously think about doing so.
  • Our brain’s mirror neurons fire when we observe others experiencing emotions, and we wind up experiencing similar feelings. These “contagious emotions” allow us to connect with one another, experience empathy and anticipate thoughts.
  • If you lose your ability to process emotions, you’ll also lose your capacity to remember or decide anything.
  • You emit low-frequency sounds that align with the most powerful person near you through matching vocal tones.
  • When you’re involved in a negotiation, the measurable nonverbal signals associated with your confidence level more accurately predict success or failure than the relative merits of your position or words.
  • Neurons are distributed throughout your body, not just in your brain. Sensitive neurons live in the heart and gut.
  • When you communicate with someone else, your brain patterns align — even if you happen to disagree.

These findings are critically important to anyone who aspires to excel in a leadership position. Your influence expands when you harness the power tools of unconscious communication: your body language, hand gestures, facial expressions and vocal qualities.

Always remember that people are naturally drawn to leaders who establish trust and confidence through powerful communication cues. These unconscious elements affect the messages you send and receive.

These are tools we don’t think about. The point I’m making is that leaders need to think about them, practice them and become aware of them so that they can shift them to create the desired responses.

Working with a coach, you can greatly improve the impact of your conversations, presentations, and meeting through mastering your communication cues.

In my next post, I’ll share with you seven communication cues you can master to create more powerful leadership messages. In the meantime, if you have questions, let’s talk. You can contact me here.

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