Over the last two weeks, we looked at reaching out as it relates to leadership presence, and how you can use empathy and the power of making connections to build your leadership presence. This week, as well as next week, we will be looking at expressiveness and where it fits in the quest for leadership presence.
This week, we will examine how you can use emotions to drive expressiveness. According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, expressiveness is “the ability to express feelings and emotion appropriately by using all means of expressing – words, voice, body, face – to deliver one congruent message” (129).
Communication is not simply about what you say – in fact, what you say is only a small part of how you communicate with others. For example, Albert Mehrabian, a social scientist, conducted a study in which business people were rated by listeners in three different areas: their choice of words, the tone of their voice and their body language. Results show that the most important factor in determining the impact of an overall message was body language (Halpern and Lubar 133). I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Mehrabien a few years ago and discuss his book “The Silent Message”. We express ourselves both verbally and non-verbally. If our words aren’t congruent with our body language, people will believe what they see not what they hear.
Should Leaders Express Feelings and Emotions?
The notion that leaders are calm, dispassionate and always in control is a fallacy, however it is a widely held one. One might think that emotions can serve to undermine authority, or perhaps even connote a lack of control, but it is in fact the opposite. It is impossible to have presence of any kind (including leadership presence) without showing vulnerability.
According to Halpern and Lubar, “Possessing [the ability to recognize and express emotion] will make a leader more effective and set the emotional tone and energy level of the whole organization” (139). As mentioned in the post about empathy, being able to recognize and feel others’ emotions is crucial, but so is the expression of your own. Remaining calm under chaos is critical to leadership presence and when losing control is out of character, others will pause and pay attention.
Expressing Emotion Guideline #1: Generating Excitement by Expressing Emotion (Halpern and Lubar 142)
Expressed enthusiasm typically generates an enthusiastic response. Perhaps expressing emotion does not come naturally to you, and it may make you feel uncomfortable, however the results will surely be worth the uneasiness.
But what about women? Do the same rules apply? Expressing emotion as a woman in a business setting can play into the stereotype that women can’t handle their emotions. However, for both men and women, if you own your emotions and feel comfortable with them, others will too.
Something to keep in mind: the authors are not condoning free expression of all emotions all the time, regardless of the situation, but rather they state that “Because the expression of emotion is such a powerful tool for leaders, it must be used carefully. That’s why we don’t advocate the expression of any and all feelings, regardless of consequences” (Halpern and Lubar 146).
Expressing Emotion Guideline #2: Express Authentic Emotion (Halpern and Lubar 147)
Needless to say, the emotions expressed by a leader must be authentic, otherwise others will notice their inauthenticity, and the leader will be perceived as a phony. In order to elicit authentic expression of emotion from others, it must first come from you, the leader. I recall listening to Gordon Nixon, the CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada in 2012. He said the reason why they were the no.1 bank in Canada was that they understood people weren’t fools. I always said, “fake it till you make it and know you’ll soon be found out.” People are not fools.
Expressing Emotion Guideline #3: Invest Passionate Purpose Into Your Words and Actions (Halpern and Lubar 150)
Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this meeting?” or perhaps even “What is the purpose of this email?” beyond the obvious purpose. Instead of just needing to share information with someone, perhaps the deeper purpose is to spread knowledge so that the other individual may benefit in his or her current position, and in turn can help to grow the company. This will enhance your output of emotion into the message, and in turn will affect how others read your message.
Halpern and Lubar state that no communication needs to be dull – rather, every conversation or exchange of words represents the opportunity to change minds (153). With this in mind, challenge yourself this week to step out of your comfort zone (if your comfort zone does not already include expressing your emotions with ease), and find ways to express your emotions in meaningful ways, all with the end goal of increasing your leadership presence!
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.