How A Leader Moves

As a career-oriented professional, you can’t wait to get promoted. You want to impress your boss, and your colleagues. You want to get that raise. And one day you want to be one of those people who have her own secretary, sitting on one of those executive office chairs only big and important people sit on. Besides the intelligence, and experience that managers and CEOs have, they also have one thing you might still have to work on: good posture.

Yep, you read that right. A lot of young professionals bypass sitting up straight, or walking with your chest out, because they think that it’s enough to think of plans, or give motivational speeches to be a leader. But just like any word you utter, posture also affects how other people see you. Posture is also a language. It has the capacity to project power, or dilute it.

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Posture and Power

A powerful TED talk by Amy Cuddy emphasizes that power and dominance have nonverbal expressions. If you look at the body language of leaders, like Former President Barack Obama, or the late Margaret Thatcher, you will notice that they have an open stance while talking.

When talking to people, their feet are apart and facing outwards, and sometimes, they lean forward, taking up space.In contrast, people who feel inferior close themselves up, using their hands as barriers to protect themselves from feeling threatened. They hunch up, trying to take up as little space as possible. When we feel disappointed in losing tournaments, or a simple game, we also cover our face. Posture reflects how powerful people feel.

Cuddy said that proper posture is a universal expressions of power. Pack and herd leaders in the animal kingdom also display the same body language to exert their dominance to their members or to animals lower in the food pyramid. She also cites a study observing how athletes, even the ones who were born blind, raise their hands like a V with their chins slightly up in winning competitions to display pride.

Posture and People’s Perception

First impressions matter, especially in the process of getting employed. In fact, it’s hard to redeem yourself from a horrible first meeting. Just imagine spilling coffee on the manager’s desk, or slouching on a supposedly comfortable office chair in an interview. The labour market is competitive and companies are on the lookout for proactive employees, and people who can lead teams. It’s going to be hard to pass for a second interview when you don’t look credible on the first one.

This is why good posture matters: it communicates confidence. It’s one thing to have good ideas; it’s another to look like someone whose ideas are good. Not only is this important in job interviews, but when you’re an employee looking to get a promotion, you’d want to be seen as someone credible and deserving of a higher position. Being a leader means having good command of people; it means being someone who people will be willing to listen to. Posture also helps you communicate your ideas, and your authority.

What You Can Do

The best thing about all this is that posture is something within your control. While in general, body language is something subconscious, and usually reflects what we feel, we can also control how we pose and move to change our disposition. Amy Cuddy encourages people to “fake it ‘til you become it,” highlighting that we can slowly change our self-image even if we feel tiny in a large corporate world at the beginning. You can develop habits of sitting up straight and walking tall, or start taking an open stance when talking to colleagues. You can even buy chairs for posture support if you have a hard time forming habits on your own. Remember, the little things matter—sometimes, it’s what makes the difference.

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