Leadership Presence and Nonverbal Cues

Authors Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern suggest in their book Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire three guidelines for developing emotional expressiveness that inspires others, influences change and drives business results.

  1. Generate excitement
  2. Put nonverbal cues to work
  3. Find and express a passionate purpose

Nonverbal cues can be tricky to master. How can you put nonverbal behaviors to work in order to fully express emotions to carry your message as a leader?

“What makes presence is not just the clothes you wear, the words you speak or how you think. Rather, presence requires alignment between your mind, body and words — to walk the talk, you need a simultaneous focus on all three levers: mental, skill and physical. Your presence is an interconnected system of your beliefs and assumptions, your communication skills and your physical energy.” ~ Amy Jen Su, Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

While the words you choose play an important role in your message’s emotional impact, research tells us that facial and body cues may be even more significant:

  • Body language and confidence level shape your message’s impact.
  • Tone of voice radiates clarity, energy and passion (or lack thereof).
  • Actual words have the least effect on communication impact.

 Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA, conducted studies that revealed:

  • Words account for only 7% of a speaker’s impact.
  • Vocal tone is responsible for 38%.
  • Body language trumps them both at an astounding 55%.

Despite these game-changing findings, most of us spend 99% of our time on crafting language when planning a presentation — and a mere 1% on how we’re going to convey our message.

You lose credibility when your face and body send different messages. You may not even be aware of your “tics”: unconscious movements or gestures that are out of sync with how you truly feel.

Speak from your core values to achieve alignment. If you’re struggling, consider hiring an experienced executive coach or consider alternatives like peer coaching. The challenge is too important to ignore, and problems with nonverbal expression are very difficult to solve without feedback from others.

Your overall leadership presence ultimately determines whether you’re perceived as a strong candidate for promotion or a trustworthy person worth following. Your nonverbal cues are subconscious, so it’s hard for you to become aware of them unless you make a conscious, consistent effort to do so.

I’d love to hear from you if you think that nonverbal communication may not be your strong suit.

**Photo credit: TwoWings Flickr, no alterations made, Creative Commons License.**

Tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *