5 Tips for Women in Leadership to Convey Competence

Being a woman in leadership in today’s world has its challenges.

Psychologists have found that while body language is the result of our attitude or how we feel, the reverse is also true: changing your body language changes your attitude. When we think about non-verbal behaviour or body language, it is communication, which in turn is interaction.

Women in Leadership

How females communicate through body language can be perceived very differently from how men communicate.  While a man’s body language may show him to be assertive, the same body language in a woman can be construed as aggressive.

In order to help women navigate the rough waters of leadership, I have designed a comprehensive coaching program that will be available to executive women who are serious about being influential leaders. This program will support you in all aspects of your life and position you to be at the top of your field.

Communication Tips

In the meantime, I want to give you some tips I’ve come across to help improve communication.

Let’s start by having you take note of your body language right now.

– Are you slumping?

– Crossing your legs or arms?

– Are you spread out?

I invite you to pay attention to what you are doing right now.

Learning to tweak your body language can significantly change the direction of your life.

Here are a few tips to support you;

  1. Take up some space– Taking up space by for example sitting or standing with your legs apart a bit signals self-confidence and that you are comfortable in your own skin.
  2. Avoid touching your face– It might make you seem nervous and can be distracting for the listeners or the people in the conversation.
  3. Use your hands more confidently – Instead of fidgeting with your hands and scratching your face use them to communicate what you are trying to say. Use your hands to describe something or to add weight to a point you are trying to make. But don’t use them too much or it might become distracting. And don’t let your hands flail around, use them with some control.
  4. Lower your drink– Do you ever hold your drink in front of your chest? Hold anything in front of your heart, will make you seem guarded and distant. Lower it and hold it beside your leg instead.
  5. Widen your stance – When you stand with your feet close together, you can seem hesitant or unsure of what you are saying. But when you widen your stance, relax your knees and center your weight in your lower body, you look more “solid” and confident.

In a study conducted at Princeton, researchers found that a one-second clip of candidates for senator or governor was enough for people to accurately predict which candidate was elected. While this may not increase your faith in the voting process, it does show that perception of competence has a strong foundation in body language.

Harvard psychologist, Amy Cuddy has devoted her studies to the impact body language has on your confidence, influence, and, ultimately, success. Her biggest findings centre on the powerful effects of positive body language.

Positive body language includes things like;

  • appropriate eye contact,
  • active engagement/listening,
  • and targeted gestures that accentuate the message you’re trying to convey.

Studies show that women who use positive body language are more likeable, competent, persuasive, and emotionally intelligent.

Positive body language changes your attitude. Cuddy found that consciously adjusting your body language to make it more positive improves your attitude because it has a powerful impact on your hormones. Cortisol is a stress hormone that impedes performance and creates negative health effects over the long term. Decreasing cortisol levels minimizes stress and enables you to think more clearly, particularly in difficult and challenging situations.

In a Tufts University study, subjects watched soundless clips of physicians interacting with their patients. Just by observing the physicians’ body language, subjects were able to guess which physicians ended up getting sued by their patients. Body language is a huge factor in how you’re perceived and can be more important than your tone of voice or even what you say. Learning to use positive body language will make people like you and trust you more.

Take a couple of these body language bits to work on every day for three to four weeks. By then they should have developed into new habits and something you’ll do without even thinking about it. If not, keep on until it sticks.

“Don’t fake it till you make it.  Fake it until you become it.” Amy Cuddy from her TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

Strike a Power Pose  Research into the effects of body posture on confidence, conducted at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools, has shown that simply holding your body in expansive, “high-power” poses (leaning back with hands behind the head and feet up on a desk, or standing with legs and arms stretched wide open) for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone — the hormone linked to power and dominance — and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Try this before your next important business meeting, and I guarantee you will look and feel more confident and certain. In addition to causing hormonal shifts, according to the research, these poses lead to increased feelings of power and a higher tolerance for risk. The studies also show that people are more often influenced by how they feel about you than by what you’re saying.

Share and Learn

Also, share this learning with others.

Positive body language is an important factor in nonverbal communication techniques. This will be one of the areas I cover in my exciting new program. Details for registration will be available shortly.

What you think is possible, is just the beginning.


Jennifer Jimbere
Jennifer Jimbere
Jennifer Jimbere is an entrepreneur, International best-selling co-author of the Dream Boldly I Dare You series, World Class Coach and Business Consultant. A recognized authority on change management, profitability, and organizational turnaround, she has served as an advisor to thousands of individuals and organizations around the world for more than 20 years. Her work can be found on Jimbere Coaching & Consulting and Radical Joy Seeking Women's Club. Jennifer has also been named Influence Magazine 100 Authority and recognized as Coach of the Month, April 2019 by Strategic Learning Alliance.

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