036 Why you Need to Understand the Body Language of Leaders

Surprised, confused funny looking little girlLeaders need to not only aware of the message they send with their own body language but how to read the body language nuances of others.  Bob and Alex start with the often discussed crossed arms and the message that they send.

Alex says another action she has problems with is the histrionics of waved arms. Bob freely admits that he was often kidded that he was like John Madden from the classic Lite Beer tastes great-less filling ad campaigns.

Clock watching is also a huge sign  of disrespect. A modern day equivalent is the use of the phone during the conversation.  To have someone look away and start thumbing through your Instagram feed.  Alex says it’s almost as bad as physically turning your back on someone while talking to them.

Bob points out a minor one is playing with your hair.  Nodding is also on the list.  In earlier episodes dealing with having difficult conversations, nodding was suggested as a good strategy for trying to convey empathy.  This subtlety is acceptable, but “hard nodding’ with your chin moving from the sky to your chest is way too distracting.

Eye contact is huge.  You don’t want to stare them down with the crazy eyes, but sustained eye contact is an expression of strength and confidence. When you have to cut away, look to the side.  Looking down is a sure sign of submission.  Of course, rolling your eyes is completely unacceptable.

Frowning an scowling can become permanently associated with you.  If the corners of your mouth are turned down, try to use a soft smile to be more approachable.

The handshake remains a key element of body language.  Firm is important, but not crushing. Meet them with the same amount of pressure. While classically, men should wait for ladies to offer their hand, today offering the hand is more important.

Clenched fists are a sure sign of tension.  Recognizing the appropriate personal space is important.  In North America, proximity of about a foot and a half is acceptable.  In other countries, a closer distance is not uncommon.

Travis Bradberry’s article on Body Language

4 thoughts on “036 Why you Need to Understand the Body Language of Leaders”

  1. Interesting…I do alot of these negative body language indications without really knowing I do them. This will help me try to be more mindful about how I am projecting myself to others.

  2. Lots of great learnings here… the clock watchers is such a yucky one!! I think I have to work on the hand gestures (I’m Colombian which is sort of like being Italian) and the eye rolling! Doing online video has really helped me to be more aware of my body language.

  3. Fascinating Bob, thank you for this insight. What’s your guidance on positive body language signs leaders should incorporate day-to-day? Very interested to learn about that from you.

  4. Body language is something to always be aware of. We spend a lot of time on tone and word choice but what our bodies are doing tells the real story. You can’t be too calculated about but it’s important to know how the culture reads certain gestures. Great topic, Bob!

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