Sometimes, it’s “what you don’t say” counts more than what you say. Perception is as important as reality, if not more. When it comes to branding, perception decides the brand value. Personal branding is important to build to reach corner offices and boardrooms. It is true for everyone and more for women because women have to overcome a subtle gender bias against their capability and potential to reach the top and lead an organization. You don’t have to be the smartest and most knowledgeable to be perceived as a leader. You have to be perceived to be smarter than others. All leaders are judged by their body language. Importance of nonverbal communication is depicted in graph below, a result of research by Dr.Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA.
Following are some recommended body language do’s which women should exhibit to be perceived as powerful and a confident leader.
- Work on your voice and watch you voice tone:
As per this study : people who put out the right kind of sounds—below the range of conscious human hearing—become the leaders of most groups. The process of picking a leader has more to do with having the right kind of voice than it does having the right ideas or the right physique. You can work on your voice, and produce a leadership-quality sound.
2. Establish and maintain an eye contact
Eye contact conveys trustworthiness. People who meet your gaze seem sincere and trustworthy, while those who don’t seem either dishonest or lacking in confidence. However, too much eye contact can be uncomfortable Studies suggest the proper amount of eye contact in the U.S. and many other countries should be between 50% and 60 % of the conversation, mostly when listening.
3. Use appropriate hand gestures
Hand gesture can complement the words you are speaking. Try Steepling which is a body posture when someone brings their hands up towards their chest or face and presses the tips of their fingers together. This is a gesture of confidence, self-assuredness and even superiority.
4. Use power poses
Take your space. Women tend to minimize the space they occupy through pulling in their bodies and minimizing their space. An outstretched, open posture projects an image of power and confidence. Research at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools shows that simply holding your body in “high-power” poses (leaning back with hands behind the head and feet up on a desk, or standing with legs and arms stretched wide open) for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone—the hormone linked to power and dominance—and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.too. Power poses are great way to boost your confidence and portray leadership potential.
4. Firm handshake
People with weak handshake are judged to be passive and less confident. Face the other person squarely and make sure you have palm to palm contact. Shake the hand firmly and for at least few seconds.
5. Remaining calm and composed
Women have a tendency to go overboard on expressing themselves and their emotions. Expressing too much can overwhelm your audience. Be watchful of your expressions and hand movements to appear in control and mature. Calmness and composure are often associated with leadership and authority.
6. Be business like
Maintain a distance literally and figuratively. Smile but do not smile excessively. Do not flirt. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity about your intentions. Control perceived girlish behaviours such as twirling your hair, playing with jewellery such as rings or biting your nails. These things also convey sign of nervousness and lack of confidence.
7. Speak more in negotiations
Research has confirmed that in negotiations men talk more frequently than women and interrupt frequently. Do not keep waiting for your turn to speak because you might not have it if you leave to others to let you speak. There is a famous quote by former secretary of state of US, who when asked what advice she had for women professionals, replied, ” Learn to interrupt”.
Good news is that body language behavior can be learned and internalized with practice. Communication skills are key to be an effective leader and one can not rely on only instinctive behavior when it comes to nonverbal communication. In order to be successful leader, one has to be aware of signals sent by non verbal cues and choose appropriate body language to convey more power, confidence, and leadership potential.