Embody your leadership message

Conveying leadership is not always just about messages, so make your body-language find the right words

Every organisation has its own culture, its leadership style and a set of core messages. These messages are transmitted through documents, speeches, conversations, images, design and other aspects of the communication strategy. Some of these messages are formal and deliberate, such as a statement of the organisation’s mission or vision. Others may be unintended, such as “We must…” and “We have to…” amongst a leadership that would like to be seen as flexible and creative, yet uses coercive language which implies that we are slaves to circumstance.
In this article, I wish to draw attention to another way in which the organisation’s leadership message is communicated: through its embodiment in the leadership. All human interaction is grounded in the living, breathing bodies of individuals. All of us – consciously or unconsciously – ‘read’ one another’s body language and make meaning from what we see and feel. We can tell when someone is not comfortable with what they are saying, or when a motivational speech lacks genuine passion and conviction. When we ‘read’ the body, we use skills that are the birthright of every human being; innate skills that are much older and more deeply rooted than verbal language. Most of the meaning communicated in face to face interactions is based on non-verbal dimensions: the body posture, movement, gestures, timing, voice, eye contact and so on. The message that the organisation’s leaders embody will either support or undermine the communication’s purpose. This, in turn, has a direct impact on the sustainability of the organisation.

Sara Boas

Sara Boas is the founding director of Boas, an international consultancy committed to transforming leadership in business, the public sector, research institutions, NGOs and the arts. Clients include Cisco Systems, BMW, Heineken, BP, Ernst & Young, GlaxoSmithKline, American Express, IBM, and the Walt Disney Company. Sara is a member of the associate faculty at the London Business School, the Center for Creative Leadership, the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the University of London. She has designed and delivered over 25 new curricula in adult learning.