How Managers can Improve Influence with Body Language

by Corey Philip //  November 6, 2022

Body language plays a critical though often neglected role in managerial performance and outcomes. So, how can managers enhance their influence and be more effective leaders through the strategic use of body language?

Managers can be more influential by using body language cues like an upright posture, eye contact, calm vocal tone, and controlled facial expressions. These bodily signals improve the manager’s influence because they convey vital leadership qualities like confidence, competence, power, and empathy.

Strategic awareness and application of bodily communication can dramatically improve the level of influence managers have within and outside of their organization. The following scientifically-grounded information and guidance will assist managers seeking to maximize the potential benefits of conscious and strategic use and interpretation of body language.

Body Language: A Key to Being an Influential Manager

As leaders, managers must be able to guide, persuade, or instruct other people to act in ways that advance the interests and goals of the organization. A manager’s body language is fundamental in determining their ability to exert a powerful and positive influence.

Body language plays a central role in interpersonal communication, with most of the meaning that participants exchange being transmitted through non-verbal bodily signals or cues such as:

  • posture
  • gesture
  • facial expression
  • eye contact
  • voice tone
  • and body movement

Through the skillful use and interpretation of body language, managers can establish the respect, trust, and rapport necessary for the successful performance of their managerial duties.

For managers to perform effectively, their bodily communication must convey ideal leadership characteristics, including:

  • competence
  • power
  • confidence
  • composure
  • empathy
  • patience
  • and enthusiasm

Similarly, managers are more influential when they are skilled at reading postures, facial expressions, gestures, and other bodily expressions. Managers who are insensitive to the messages that other people transmit through their body language are likely to experience a proportional decrease in their managerial efficacy.

If body language is crucial, how do managers use this non-verbal form of communication to enhance and strengthen their influence as leaders?

1. Be Conscious of your Body Language

The first and most crucial requirement is to develop a diligent and sensitive awareness of one’s body language. Despite its centrality in interpersonal communication, people commonly overlook the significance of the non-verbal messages they transmit with their bodies!

To exert the desired influence, managers must be conscious about the information their posture, facial expression, tone of voice, and other bodily signals communicate to other people.

2. Adopt an Upright Posture

Posture is probably the most dominant means of expressing body language. Also called bearing, posture refers to the way we carry ourselves.

Managers should strive to hold their backs straight (without straining) to convey power and confidence. Keeping the head elevated with the chin upright is also essential for maintaining a posture that projects an image of self-assured and effective leadership.

3. Control Gestures and Body Movements

During interpersonal communication, managers are more likely to be influential if they combine their speech with open, expressive arm gestures (without being overly theatrical).

Managers should also refrain from fidgeting while talking or listening to someone. By maintaining control of their arm, hand, and leg movements, managers can convey a message of attentiveness, empathy, and composure that will boost their influence within and outside their organization.

4. Maintain a Calm tone of Voice

The tone of your voice has a dramatic effect on the communication process. If managers are mindful and strategic about their tone of voice, their words exert a more powerful influence on their colleagues or employees.

Managers should monitor their tone of voice to ensure it is not betraying negative emotions and thoughts that might prejudice the communication process.

General rule-of-thumb: Managers are more influential when they speak in a calm but assertive vocal intonation.

5. Make a Powerful Entrance

Managers can demonstrate their status and self-assurance when entering a room by walking in decisively and without any sign of hesitation.

To emphasize this non-verbal statement of power, it is beneficial for managers to approach or sit with the most influential individuals in the room. Lingering near the entrance is inadvisable because this might convey timidity, which could undermine the manager’s ability to influence the other people in the room.

6. Use Strong Eye Contact

Maintaining direct eye contact is another way for managers to use body language to enhance their influence. By keeping direct but non-aggressive eye contact with the people they are communicating with, managers convey a message of confidence, strength, attentiveness, and interest.

7. Use Warm and Attentive Facial Expressions

The way managers use their mouths, eyebrows, and other expressive facial features can dramatically affect their ability to influence other individuals. Managers are generally more influential and effective when they strive to have warm, vibrant smiles.

People typically respond positively to smiling faces. For this reason, it is usually advisable for managers to avoid frowning (unless there are legitimate reasons to express anger or displeasure). Managers should also use their facial expressions to convey interest and empathy when listening to employees and colleagues in the business or organization.

8. Maintain Neat and Healthful Self-Presentation 

A manager's physical self-presentation is an obvious form of body language that conveys clear messages about their status to the individuals around them. Managers express this kind of body language through clothing, health and grooming.

To project confidence and competence, managers should wear appropriately formal styles of clothing that are clean and in excellent condition.

The state of a manager’s health and well-being also affects the amount of influence they wield within their organization. Managers who practice self-care inherently communicate non-verbal messages of strength, energy, and discipline and are more likely to command respect and trust within their organizations.

Grooming is another element of body language that can enhance or compromise the perceptions and assessments of a manager. Managers must maintain impeccable grooming habits to convey the competence and discipline necessary to influence other people within their organizational arena.

Final Thoughts

Managers can considerably enhance and expand their influence through the effective use of body language. By adopting body language signals like an upright posture and a calm, assertive tone of voice, managers can transmit essential leadership qualities such as confidence, competence, power, and empathy.

The strategic application of bodily communication engenders the respect and trust that is vital for being an influential manager.

(Related: 14 Best Leadership Podcasts To Help You Go Forth and Conquer)

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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