Cultivating Leadership Using the Principles of Acting & Body Language in Business

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Cultivating Leadership Using the Principles of Acting & Body Language in Business

I read a really interesting article about Twitter this week: Trouble @Twitter

The article speaks about the leadership woes and lack of vision Twitter has dealt with since its inception. While there were several parts of the article that entertained and enlightened, there was a particular excerpt that resonated with me:

“In the fall of 2009 he [Evan Williams] brought on Dick Costolo, who had sold Feedburner to Google, as the company's chief operating officer. A friend to Williams, Costolo had already been advising the company on an informal basis and was an angel investor in Twitter. Having dabbled in improvisational theater early in his adulthood, Costolo inspires confidence with his refined public speaking ability, quick wit, and fast decision-making skills.

The fact that theater training can enhance the perception one gives off in the business arena is no longer a secret. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, ranked by "U.S. News & World Report" as the number one business school in the country, offers students a course entitled Acting with Power
where they explore authoritative and non-threatening body language and how to navigate various business situations using the principles of acting.

Acting teaches you to be in control of the image you portray, which is the sum total of your voice, diction, use of space, body language, and overall outward presentation. Acting also teaches you how to focus on the other person and pick up on the real motivations behind what they are saying through their non-verbal cues. This is relevant from the theater to your sales meetings and company presentations.

Leadership is about hard work and comprehensive knowledge, but it is also about projecting a believable image of strength and confidence. Luckily, these are skills anyone can learn through regular observation of effective leaders, and through frequent use of proven, easy-to-use body language techniques in the workplace.

Here are 10 workplace body language basics that will get you started in the right direction:

1) Speak with your diaphragm - projecting from your diaphragm will give more weight to your language and convey authority and grounding.

2) Stand with your hands behind your back - when you place your hands in front of your waist and covering your vital organs, it indicates vulnerability and insecurity. So stand with your hands behind your back so that you communicate with your audience that you are open, confident and have nothing to hide.

3) Be on the lookout for microexpressions - there is a split second when, behind all the fake smiles and nods, people betray their true inner feelings with a scowl or squinty eyes. This is nearly impossible to control, even for the most skilled actors, so be aware of this and on the lookout for signs that betray people's true feelings.

4) Use the right balance of eye contact - not maintaining steady eye contact indicates to others that you are not interested or that you are lying, so be sure to look people in the eyes. On the other hand, staring too much without blinking can make people feel like you are invading their territory and put them off. If this is a habit of yours, you can combat it by switching your focus from eye to other eye to top of the nose and then back to eye again.

5) Smile often - social smilers are perceived as being less domineering and more intelligent. Don't walk around with a perma-grin, however, because people will perceive you as being clueless.

6) Keep a level chin - raising your chin conveys feeling of superiority and smugness, while lowering your chin shows defensiveness and feelings of inferiority. Keeping a level chin during business engagements will convey the right balance of confidence with humility.

7) Tilt your head to the right - in a business environment, tilting you head to the right indicates interest and rational thinking. It also increases trust and shows a willingness to be open. Tilting to the left is best used in social situations as it conveys flirting and lightheartedness.

8) Mirror the person you are talking to - mirror the posture and body language cues of the person you are trying to establish rapport with. This builds a non-verbal sense of trust and liking between you, and is also one of the most powerful ways to read other people. If they are mirroring you, it means they like what you are saying, and if they aren't, it means you have some work to do to convince them.

9) Lean forward - leaning in to the person speaking or the person you are speaking with shows interest, sincerity and liking.

10) Use the "Politician's Point" and "Steeple" - The "Politician's Point" is made by making a fist and then making the okay symbol with your thumb and index finger. It is the perfect way to punctuate your points without coming across as aggressive, as the straight point often does. The steeple is when you put the tips of both hands together and make a triangle between your hands. This is a powerful, authoritative gesture that conveys confidence, superiority and reasoned thinking.

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