Body Language: The Difference Between A Good Leader And A Great Leader

Being able to master body language to communicate nonverbally is an acquired skill. Sending messages via tone of voice and facial expressions, and being able to read others’ quirky twitches, posture, and gestures is complex and confusing. Learning another language is difficult, and though body language isn’t a “traditional” tongue, it definitely requires practice and patience to gain fluency. Perfecting this art can help you in your career by improving communication, building self-confidence, and earning trust from others! Here are 5 body language basics you need to conquer for success:

1. Make Eye Contact

Locking eyes with another person shows confidence and trustworthiness. To make an impression or a statement, hold that steady gaze 1 second longer than is comfortable… then look away. Wandering eyes and looking different directions can make you appear insecure, uninterested, and dishonest.

2. Handshake

This one is huge. You will be judged immediately from your handshake. Make sure you have a firm grasp. A weak handshake will make you appear weak—can we even trust you to carry a cup of coffee with that measly grip? Imagine shaking hands with a dead fish… that would feel weird right? Well that’s how wimpy handshakes feel—weird, slimy, and weak. If you had to only master one these… it’s this one! You’ve been warned. Bonus Tip: Be the first to reach out for the handshake.

3. Keep Open Arms

An inviting, warm, and friendly person is more likely to be accepted and trusted. Keep your arms relaxed at your side, or if you’re sitting, prop up on the armchair. Even though crossing your arms may feel comfortable and natural, it actually comes off as defensive or guarded.

4. Mimic The Other Person

“Mirroring” is a proven tactic to make the other person feel comfortable and trust you. Simply mimic what they are doing—leaning back in the chair, left arm on their hip, raising eyebrows, etc. If the person is sharing something positive, laugh and smile with them. If they share bad news, frown with them. Being empathetic and in tune with another person’s emotions demonstrates respect and that you are an authentic person.

5. Stand Tall

Posture, people! In your career (and in life, honestly) you want to appear capable, confident, and respectable… right? Slouchy shoulders won’t get you that reputation. Stand tall, shoulders back, chest out, and chin up! Repeat that mantra in your head as you walk into your next meeting or interview.

Practice these body language habits daily and you’ll be a master in no time!

Curious to see how you rank as a leader? Check out our WorkCompass Leadership Survey to discover your strengths and weaknesses in leadership.


Denis Coleman

Denis Coleman is the founder and CEO of Work Compass, a cloud staff performance collaboration software platform that helps teams align their efforts with strategic goals and continuously improve performance. Frustrated with the disconnect between strategy setting and day to day execution and the lack of tools available to managers to help them be great at their most important function …. Aligning their teams activities with strategic goals and actively managing for high performance Denis spent over 5 years researching strategy execution and performance management practices before founding Work Compass to create a software solution. Denis has held senior roles in Ireland, Czech Republic and North America with high performing electronics manufacturing and professional services organisations for more than 12 years. Denis has worked as Finance Director responsible for €800 million in annual revenues for Flextronics International, Key Account Manager responsible for annual revenues of more than €600 million for Dovatron International and Management Consultant for BDO one of Europe’s most successful professional services providers.

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