The Silent Language of Leadership
We don’t use the term lie when it comes to lying to the boss but that’s what it is. We tell her what she wants to hear. After all, powerful bosses greatly impact our career, advancement, and financial success.
I observed a group of mid-levels publicly conspire to lie to the boss and no one thought a thing of it. They didn’t use the term lie; they said, “We can’t tell him that,” and proceeded to tailor the truth to protect their image and not upset him. It wasn’t malicious; it was expedient.
Detecting deception is one reason reading nonverbal signals is useful. Here are, “12 True Behaviors that Expose Liars.”
Carol Kinsey Goman, author of, “The Silent Language of Leaders,” recently helped me appreciate the nonverbal dance more fully. She explained there are stress signals; there are no lying signals. She warned, “You may interpret a hand to the lips as lying but it may be embarrassment.”
Carol also helped me appreciate the value of gesture clusters – “a group of movements, postures, and actions that reinforce a common point. Fidgeting may not mean much by itself. If the person is also avoiding eye contact, wringing his hands, and pointing his feet toward the door, there’s a very good chance he is distressed and wants to leave.”
Nonverbals for speakers:
My conversation with Carol and reading her book enhanced my effectiveness during the key-note I gave last night. I had an hour to watch the audience before I spoke. I knew the lady off to the right crossed her arms because she was cold not because of skepticism.
I noticed they weren’t free with applause so I lowered my expectations. When I finished, their generous applause was gratifying.
Grabbing the back of the neck means I have a question.
Do you watch nonverbal cues?
How can an understanding of nonverbal cues improve your leadership?
Don’t miss Carol’s video on her home page explaining the uses and importance of body language.
“This briliant book finally unravels a pivotal aspect of leadership,” Warren Bennis.
The words are often the tip of the communication iceberg.
Since many of us can control the words that we speak, more than the movements and contortions of our bodies and faces, the words can belie the deeper communication.
So, to your point, and Carol’s, those non-verbal queses are often the better indicator or how best to steer your response.
Another good post, Dan.
I’m not trained in nonverbal cues, so take it for what it’s worth, but I watch eyes. Eye contact seems honest and confident to me, but even if they’re not looking at me if their eyes are steady I think they’re calm and they’re thinking and I tend to trust. If their eyes are restless, something less good is happening. Maybe they’re stressed, maybe they’re covering something.
I think it’s important with nonverbal cues to use them very carefully, and always validate what you think they’re telling you. I had a case of an employee with very shifty eyes who was telling the truth (good) but was on drugs (not so good).
Sounds like an interesting and useful book. I’m reading The Wizard of Lies right now (a biography of Bernie Maddoff) and can’t help wondering how no one could see through the lies he was telling (or maybe perpetrating is a better word). When someone believes their own lies and we, too, want to believe in them, it’s really hard to see the truth, I guess.
Good morning Dan. This topic is my nemesis and my constant challenge. Most of the time if one has cohesiveness and trust amongst the parties, a lot of nuances are “forgiven” on the spot. It is all about intent in my mind and yes the actual action has an impact but I remind myself of intent. That provides me with some reassurance and comfort although like I said, it is my every day quest to do better not only at interpreting but demonstrating appropriate body language to minimize the misreads. I have read Nick Morgan’s book which has been helpful but I will certainly push to the top of my reading list “the Silent Language of Leaders” in fact it will be my weekend project. Thank you for reminding me. I know it is important to focus on our strengths but sometimes we inadvertently hide our weaknesses.
Yes, I watch and observe non verbal cures. It is more powerful than words. I have observed that when people are sitting their hands cross folded, it means they are defending and not agreeing to speaker or the points discussed. When you know the gesture and its meaning, it becomes easy to take corrective or suitable actions. I agree that eye contact is powerful indicator of personal attention. When people are attentive, they make more eye contacts than inattentive. Non verbal signals are more powerful tool to measure success of speaker or teacher. I have also observed, that there are professional liar, who are difficult to catch hold. They speak so fluently and softly that even for expert, it becomes impossible to catch them. But the person, who is not habitually liar, will easily be caught when he tries to speak lie.
A common and problematic reality. Love your insights. You provoke self-examination. May I humbly suggest a follow-up post: “12 ways leaders encourage lying.”
I love what Dave has to say. Great idea! There are far more leaders out there that are not effective in leadership.
I’m going to throw in a couple of reminders to not draw conclusions about a person solely by their body language. Due to a childhood illness that caused a stroke when I was three years old, my right hand shakes, at times more than others. I am always trying to camouflage this issue, and that means that sometimes I move quite a bit even when I’m calm, at other times I sort of sit on that hand, or cross my arms in an attempt to hold it still. There may be unknown physiological reasons for people’s body movement. And yes, I type one-handed.
My son has high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend John Robison’s book, “look me in the eye”. It has been said that a person with Asperger’s usually can either look at you or hear you. Keep that in mind, too, that there may be all sorts of reasons for body language that doesn’t fit into a typical pattern, yet without any negative connotation.
I find your blog posts informative and entertaining, Dan. Keep up the good work.
I definitely think nonverbal cues are a large part of a person’s communications arsenal. I have a spouse (and a child) who are not especially prone to making consistent eye contact, and I see daily how that impacts communications, both within the family and with outsiders.
When our staff recently took the DISC assessment as part of a training activity, several of us got feedback about what we did or did not prefer about body language (for instance, someone who wanted to interact with me well was supposed to “stay at least three feet away”!). While I didn’t agree wholeheartedly with some of the assessments, it did bring up to me times that I have made decisions about someone’s personality based on the way they handled physical proximity and touching — important to be aware of not just what’s coming out of the mouth word-wise but of everything else that is being “said” nonverbally.
Leadership does not have any age, any culture , does not have any barrier across the countries but yes it has two language one expressive ( verbal ) and second is silent , to succeed a leader should have command over both the language and out of both, the silent language is more powerful and and commanding , the body language , the gesture , the expression , the nodes and movement of ones body , complement the words spoken by the leaders, if not so than the conversation do not bring any result ,
The physically challanged person those who can not speak use this silent language and express the command and desire , In normal circumstances ones words should supported by the silent language of body , a folded hand shows both the respect and defiance ,its depend on the person which way he /she wants to express his/her inner thought and voice , teh expressive language can be read and interpreted but silent language some times can not read and understood , so the silent language is more powerful and more commanding and should have the highest place in the leaders treasure.This language has the tremendous power and explosive capacity to change the meaning of communication , if not properly used this make or break a business deal and negotiation ,To my view this is the most powerful tool a leader must posses.