Executive Presence Post #1: Power Posing – Aligning Body Language & Appearance for Leadership Success

Amy Cuddy,
Amy Cuddy, “Your body language shapes who you are.”

The #1 post in my series on:

Executive Presence: Insights for Boosting Your Credibility and Influence

Executive Presence is the “wow” factor. People with executive presence have a strong personal brand and ability to command a room. When you have presence, people gravitate to you. Management has confidence in your abilities. Clients and partners want to do business with you, and employees want to follow you. Some studies say it’s a big factor in what helps get people promoted. No wonder executive presence is a top development area leaders and emerging leaders want to work on.

Although some are born with a head start in presence, the good news is that executive presence is very learnable, and we can all get better at it. Let’s start by looking at how to align body language and appearance for leadership success.

Others’ first impressions of us are based more on our posture and body language than on what we say. Similarly, our posture impacts how we feel about ourselves. As social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, demonstrates in her research and TED Talk, “power posing” in a confident stance or retreating in a cowering posture affects hormone levels in the brain, impacting our confidence levels and likelihood for success.

Whether you’re striving to be perceived as more confident and competent or as an empathetic leader trying to engage others, align your body, vocal and facial language with your intent.

As an engaged listener, open your posture to and be laser focused on the speaker. When speaking about your business, team or point of view, help your passion come through by getting behind your words with full facial expression and voice inflection. Be aware of what your neutral face conveys to others. Some people are blessed with a joyful neutral face, whereas others’ neutral facial expressions come across unintentionally as angry or sad. This is fixable with self-awareness and a little “eyebrow-raising and smiling” practice in the mirror.

It may feel funny or even fake at first to tweak your natural instincts such as your body or facial language, but remember perception is reality to others. People make judgments on your competence and leadership abilities based on how they experience you, and this impacts their level of trust and faith in your ability to influence them. Even Margaret Thatcher worked with a coach to exude more confidence in her voice and body language as you can see in these fascinating before and after videos.

Last, examine the professionalism and style of your dress, grooming, and mannerisms to ensure they align with what you’d expect of a competent leader. Showing a sense of style while staying professional with body parts and body hair appropriately covered is a must. When in doubt, dress more conservatively than your boss and your client, and dress for the job you want. Ask trusted friends for their opinions if you look polished, professional and put together. Be mindful of your mannerisms. Do use hand gestures sparingly and intentionally. Don’t play with your hair when you speak. Watch videos of competent speakers and of yourself interacting with others for insight.

I will be speaking on this topic and other insights on Executive Presence this week at the ACA Business Club of Chicago’s professional development luncheon at Maggiano’s in Schaumburg, IL on Wednesday, August 12, 2015.