Developing your career and growing towards your ultimate role usually involves several stepping stones before you get there. In most cases, this may involve one or two management roles, or at least roles where leadership and people management is one component - this is not something which comes naturally to all. Thankfully there are plenty of techniques one can adopt to gain the right edge and bring their A-game to the new role!
Body language is such a subtle but stunningly powerful tool that we all use already in our every interaction; we may not, however, be particularly conscious of when and how we use it and therefore could be missing it’s potential.
The body language you exude in the workplace says almost as much as you do verbally, about your attitude, inner-thinking and opinions, so wouldn't it be more useful to take control and use this tool to your advantage?
The way we position our arms when we’re engaging with a colleague or member of the team (of which we’re leading) can tell them a lot about how open we are to the conversation or their ideas. Folded arms is a common stance when conversing with another, and can help us to feel authoritative, however, this stance is closing you off from the other person, subconsciously creating a barrier.
A strong leader needs to welcome input from their team and encourage open discussion, so concentrate on opening those arms up and removing and body language barriers!
Interestingly, our feet are great indicators of our levels of interest in a topic or in an individual. By angling feet away from a conversation, we subconsciously give the impression we’re less than eager to stay, that we have other places to be. Feet pointed towards the individual displays interest in them; directly toward them shows sole and direct focus whereas ‘v’ angled feet can help you to give your attention to a group (coming into the scope of the ‘v’).
Often this can be a result of a busy day or a busy life, with plenty of other pressing things to get on with. If this is the case and you notice yourself angling to leave or angling away from the conversation or situation, take a breath and calm the mind for a minute while you listen and give this situation the attention it deserved; your staff will thank you for always hearing their suggestions or concerns, without an air of edging away.
In a leadership position, you need to exude authority no matter what kind of leader you are; your team must accept your direction and decisions. Your hands can really help you here. Some speak with their hands much more frequently than others, however even if you know that that’s you, do you know if you’re giving the right signals?
Straight and strong hand movements can help with giving direction and demanding action from your team while using more flowing movements with your hands and arms can encourage conversation, innovation and creation.
Overall, using your hands more when conversing or directing or presenting, can make you more favourable, appear more passionate and become more engaging to your audience, whether that is of 1 or 1000.
Eye contact is a significant indicator of more or less all of the above mentioned, of the level of interest, openness, but also of sincerity. Making eye contact shows confidence and authority as well as showing your conversational partner respect, a leadership quality you won't want to endeavour without.
If a leadership role is not your comfort zone, you may find addressing the team or giving a presentation more daunting. Nerves aren't a great trait to expose to your team, so in such a situation you may find that calm and regular movement can both physically calm you and give the illusion of a very together and calm leader. No handstands necessary, and we’ll stress the words calm and gentle as you don’t want to appear frantic or panicked, darting around the room, but just the steady movement from one end of the table to the other or a gentle and occasional pace over your presentation area should help!
In short, remember that a lot of what you ‘say’ is communicated through how you move or position your body, but keep in mind these few tips, and you will ace that leadership role.