As our series on Leadership Presence continues this week, we look even closer at the power of expression and how it can enhance your ability to lead. Last week, we looked at the role of emotions and how they drive expressiveness; this week, we will look in detail into how voice, body and story can help you become more expressive.
According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, there are three rules for expressiveness. Below, we will look at each in detail.
Rule #1: Conquer your fear of overexpression (Halpern and Lubar 163)
The fear, in most business situations, is being too expressive, as we think it might resemble flamboyancy (an often non-desired trait in the business world, especially if one wants to be considered a leader). The authors suggest thinking of your “expressive ability” in terms of a dial, 1 being very low and 10 being very high. They state that on average, people in a business setting have their dials “set” to between 1 and 3; they suggest a better area is between 3 and 7.
Needless to say, your dial should change according to your circumstance. A on-on-one meeting probably does not necessitate a dial setting of 7. In addition, Halpern and Lubar state that as you move along the leadership spectrum from “responsible” to “assertive”, you will need to become more or less expressive – for example, the more assertive you’re trying to be, the more expressive you should become (164).
Being an introvert is not an excuse for not being expressive. As a matter of fact, some extroverts can be over the top expressive and annoy others. When it comes to our first pillar of Executive Presence: First Impressions, we emphasize the importance of the impact we make when meeting people for the first time. The introvert who does not participate in a two-way conversation may risk becoming suspicious to others. We agree with the authors that you need to move up the scale without tipping it as some extroverts may do.
Rule #2: Using your voice and body congruently (Halpern and Lubar 165)
Halpern and Lubar explain that a problem they often encounter when dealing with business people is that many do not speak with congruency; that is to say, their words and their body language do not match. Imagine how problematic it would be in a business situation to be saying one thing, but for your body to be saying something completely different? The price, according to Halpern and Lubar, is tremendous: loss of credibility.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s research suggests strong evidence on the importance of congruence, as we write about in this previous blog post.
But how can you become more congruent? Here are some tips:
- Variety in your language, body and voice (so as not to lose your audience)
- Marry language to passion (your choice of words does matter – it will ensure you are passionate and excited about what you’re speaking of, and will in turn excite your audience. Ways of doing this includes the use of quotes, using vivid imagery and metaphor, and taking notes from great orators)
- Vocal variety – no monotone allowed!!
- Be conscious of your body language
- Take up space (recall Amy Cuddy’s research)
Rule #3: Tell Stories to unleash your expressiveness (Halpern and Lubar 175)
Storytelling is a great way for you to naturally speak with congruence. According to the authors: “Stories help you automatically pull together every means of expression and compensate for any lack of formal training in voice and body movement” (175).
Stories can help with expressing emotion in two ways: firstly, they give you permission to take on roles, therefore allowing for heightened expression. Secondly, stories generate emotional responses from audience members (176).
Halpern and Lubar offer some tips to help you in your storytelling ventures (178):
- Use the present tense to enhance the immediacy of the story
- Use bullet phrases (as opposed to long, run-on sentences)
- Use descriptive and sensory language to keep your audience involved
- Use variety in your face, body and tone of voice
Many of us exhibit some level of anxiety when it comes to speaking in front of others or when giving a presentation. These tips can help you become more confident, more congruent, and more engaged. In turn, your audience will respect, listen to, and be genuinely interested in, what you have to say.
This week, challenge yourself to put these ideas into practice; practice at home in front of the mirror, and if you’re daring, try filming yourself so that you may re-watch yourself and see what needs tweaking.
Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.