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Blog > 3 Non-Verbal Cues Every Leader Needs to Master

3 Non-Verbal Cues Every Leader Needs to Master

Silent signals for effective leadership
Three Colleagues talking

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Numerous industry professionals emphasize the importance of verbal communication when discussing effective executive leadership. They often highlight aspects such as providing feedback during meetings, selecting the right words to establish a leadership presence, and addressing conflicts with team members through empathetic dialogue. Yet, the significance of nonverbal communication in these scenarios is frequently overlooked.

The art of nonverbal communication and the ability to decode it in others is crucial for exerting a strong influence in leadership roles. It’s essential to consider what silent signals, such as eye contact, body language, and facial expressions, are conveying beyond the spoken or written word.

Understanding the importance of these three nonverbal cues and leveraging them can significantly enhance your leadership approach.

Cue 1: Eye Contact

It’s important to maintain eye contact in a seemingly natural, friendly, and confident manner. If you maintain the right level of eye contact with your listener(s)—whether during a one-on-one meeting or while giving a presentation of any size—you’ll effectively establish a sense of engagement and connection, foster trust, signal confidence and sincerity, and, overall, hold your listeners’ attention while conveying your message more powerfully.

In contrast, if you can’t maintain normal eye contact, you may be viewed as shifty, dishonest, or lacking confidence. Frequent looking away could also signal distraction, or that you don’t really care about the conversation. That said, don’t overdo it. Staring deeply into your listener’s eyes without looking away can sometimes come across too intense, making your listeners feel unsettled.

Practice maintaining eye contact during conversations and presentations, striking the right balance, and occasionally letting your gaze rest elsewhere.

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Cue 2: Body Language

Likewise, the narrative your body language communicates to your audience is independent of the words you utter. Just as with eye contact, the way you position yourself, the way you carry your posture, and the gestures you make with your arms and hands convey your emotions and mindset to those around you.

For example, if you deliver a message to your team that deals with a sensitive and possibly negative topic, but you stand tall but relaxed and find a nice balance of natural hand and arm movements for emphasis, your listeners will feel you’re in control of the situation.

If you fidget a lot, make jerky or stiff movements, or fold your arms across your chest, you could appear nervous, afraid, and anxious about the topic you’re discussing. This can affect how much your teams trust you and whether they believe your message.

The best way to practice proper nonverbal communication through body language is to practice in the mirror or by filming yourself and then watching the footage. Are your gestures open and welcoming? Does your posture signal authority without aggression? Do you appear friendly and confident or nervous and unsure?

Cue 3: Facial Expressions

Lastly, facial expressions can say a lot. Unfortunately, for some of us, our faces seem to have a life of their own, responding to the world around us before we can even think about it. However, you must think about it.

For example, if a team member delivers bad news and you instantly grimace, that could signal to that team member that the bad news is truly something to worry about — hardly instilling confidence that you have everything in control.

Or maybe if two team members disagree, you roll your eyes at them without thinking about it. This can show a lack of emotional intelligence and convey to them that you don’t care about their issues and that they don’t have your support.

Manage your facial expressions carefully to connect with your employees and convey the confidence and authority you want to instill. Smile to show approachability and warmth, and, if there is a concern or negative news, mirror team members’ serious expressions to show empathy and understanding without responding in a way that might instill fear.

Integrating Non-Verbal Cues into Leadership Communication

As you level up your leadership skills, carefully consider how you integrate non-verbal cues into your verbal communication. When your verbal and non-verbal communication are saying two different things, it results in your audience doubting your authenticity and integrity — and, most often, they’ll question your verbal communication first. To deliver your message effectively, verbal and non-verbal communication must be aligned.

If you know you need to become more self-aware and gain greater control over your nonverbal cues, the best place to start is with feedback. Simply ask a colleague (or, even better, an executive coach!) to critique your communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal. Practice overcoming any hurdles, and consciously approach each interaction with nonverbal communication in mind.

The Bottom Line

Actions speak louder than words — and that’s the case regarding your body language and non-verbal cues. Don’t allow the wrong posture, lack of eye contact, or mismanaged facial impressions to derail the message you’re trying to send. You can transform your influence and connect authentically with your team by mastering these three non-verbal cues.

Need more help improving your communication skills and leadership presence? Sign up for a complimentary executive coaching call to learn how an Arootah coach can support you.

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Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

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