The authors of a Harvard Business Review article, “Connect, Then Lead” (July-August 2013) provide some answers as to which leadership characteristics are more important, as well as why, when and how to use and “be” each.
What I like about the article: first, Amy Cuddy is one of the authors. Her personal story is inspiring and the research-based tips she provides work; I’ve referred many clients to her TED Talk on body language for better communication. Second, the research referenced in the article reinforces what I believe: behavior and impact stem from intention. In other words, what we think and feel shows up in how we emote, energetically influence and behave, all of which ultimately determines our ability to influence others because whether you’re leading a company, a division, a Board, a team, family or group of friends, your energy is palpable. How do you seed it? How to you express it?
Warmth trumps competence in building trust and setting the tone the right way, from the start, and this is especially important considering impressions are formed instantly. The research findings discussed in the article indicate that when one leads (begins) with competence as the foundation for their style, it may engender respect, but it won’t generate loyalty and influence in the long run. Better to connect with those you wish to influence and lead by establishing a foundation of trust.
This is The Happy Warrior, a self-confident leader whose presence is literally sensed by those around her, “faces trouble without being troubled.” This is the leader we trust, and the leader we want to follow. The Happy Warrior projects warmth and strength, stemming from self-confidence, and the authors provide several recommendations on how to project self-confidence and warmth, the impact of which is verified by their research.
Self-confidence and warmth, the research suggests, are felt-attributes — positive nonverbal signals — that come from the “inside-out.” Not surprisingly, it begins with having the right mindset. Entering a situation with the right intention drives the behaviors – both verbal and non-verbal – since our human tendency toward instantaneously formed judgments mean that you can count on people to decide what they think of you first, and to decide what they think of your message second.
To project warmth, the authors give suggestions for finding the right level of enthusiasm, and validating feelings of others or connecting through empathizing. Their research confirms the importance and contagious nature of a genuine smile, one that goes from the corners of the mouth and all the way up into the crow’s feet cornering the eyes. When it comes to smiling, most people can sense and spot a fake, so this has to be the real deal; they offer ways to feel like smiling, even when you don’t want to about the topic at hand. They caution: watch the eyebrows – lifting the eyebrows indicates there may be a question underlying the behavior (expression, emotion, what you’re saying), which may be perceived as uncertainty or anxiety to over-please.
The authors suggest that feeling confident is the foundation to projecting strength, and provide suggestions on body compositions that demonstrate confidence and strength: adopt open and spacious postures when standing and sitting (think arms, legs); enter a space with purpose, then be still when you arrive (don’t fidget); unfurl the curve in your spine and stand into your full height – no matter how tall you are or aren’t.
For more, read the article itself and check out other things available from the authors. The authors include Amy Cuddy – who’s TED Talk rocks with research-based findings on how body language impacts how you’re received and perceived – and the authors of Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential, Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger.