How Nonverbal Cues Expertly Build Your Leadership Presence

Leadership presence uses a classroom to demonstrate the nonverbal skills of a leader. Don’t be fooled by the application example of being in a classroom. Whether you are an office manager, an administrator, or a teacher, watch this video to understand and make sure that your voice tone, words, and body language are all aligned (this is known as congruence).

Leadership Presence showcases several Elusive Obvious skills:

  • High expectations
  • Pause and look intelligent
  • Voice patterns.

Read the modified transcript to “How Nonverbal Cues Expertly Build Your Leadership Presence” below:

Heather has already mastered the three high expectations postures. She stands tall with arms down at her side or at her waist. Now, she’s eager to learn more about nonverbal body language in the classroom, especially after what happened about a month ago.

She was walking down the hall and noticed what was happening in the new teacher’s room. Ms. Mandy was not having a good day. She was leaning on her desk, talking too much, and her voice was not credible.

“Okay, guys, it’s time to get out your homework. Make sure it’s stapled and put your name and date in the top right corner. Then get out yesterday’s worksheet and something to write with. We need to get started right away. There’s a lot to do and we have to cover this material before the end of the week. All right, go ahead and do it so we can go over these worksheets. Also, you might want your notebook just in case you want to take notes for the test at the end of the week. Come on guys, let’s go!”

Ms. Mandy’s breathing was agitated. It seemed like even she didn’t believe her students would comply. Why would they? Her words said, “Get started right away,” but her voice and body were all over the place. No wonder her kids were having side conversations, pretty much ignoring her. They did not take her seriously.

Heather sighed and kept walking. “This teaching thing is tough.” But then, Heather walked by Mr. Brown’s classroom. She was blown away by what she saw. Mr. Brown also gave directions, but his words, and voice tone, and body language worked together to send the exact same message. What a difference!

So that must be what her mentor was talking about, leadership presence through nonverbal cues. Heather slipped into the back of Mr. Brown’s room. She watched him like a hawk, so she could go back and practice his methods with her kids.

What five nonverbal leadership cues did Mr. Brown use?

Here are five examples:

  • As he gave directions, he stood straight in a high expectations stance.
  • His head was back, his chin down.
  • Whenever he was listening to a student, his body was still, not fidgety.
  • His deep, easy breathing set a calm tone in the room.
  • His voice was firm and businesslike, not like he was asking a question. “This is important?” Not like he was pleading with kids to do their work. “Come on guys, this is important!” Instead, Heather heard him say, “This is important.”

Moments later, a kid tested Mr. Brown. “Hey, Mr. B, can we play a game?” Heather smiled as she heard how smoothly Mr. Brown handled it. His voice was firm and credible with a meaningful pause. “Not now.”

His students could tell Mr. Brown cared about their learning, because, although his face was pleasant, it was serious. And after he said something, he closed his mouth and did not blink. Learning is important, and his students got it.

Mr. Brown gestured freely as he talked. Then, every time he paused his talking, he also paused his gestures, and the best part was he kept his hand perfectly still, frozen until he started talking again.

Heather could hardly believe her eyes. Even the middle school kids were mesmerized.

For several days, Heather stopped by Mr. Brown’s classroom any time she had a quick break. She was determined to learn his nonverbal examples for leadership presence. She went back and practiced every day, every day, over and over. Pretty soon, Heather was leading her classroom in the same way. Her words, her voice tone, and her body language were all in sync, so when she had something important to say, kids took her very seriously.

Nonverbal communication cues expert Michael Grinder said it well. “Leaders make sure their nonverbals match their words. Kids don’t mess with congruence.”

Thanks for reading! For more information on how to grow in leadership presence sign up for our monthly nonverbal communication tips newsletter.

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