Ten Body-Language Mistakes Women Leaders Make

December 2010
by Carol Kinsey Goman

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Ten Body-Language Mistakes Women Leaders Make

by Carol Kinsey Goman

What body-language cues do followers look for in leaders? Two sets—warmth (empathy, likeability, caring) and authority (power, credibility, status). Although I know several men and several women leaders who do not fit the gender stereotypes, I’ve also observed that gender differences in body language most often do align with these two sets. Women are the champions in the warmth and empathy arena, but they lose out in terms of power and authority cues.

All leaders are judged by their body language. If a woman wants to be perceived as powerful, credible, and confident, she has to be aware of the nonverbal signals she’s sending. I’ve seen women unknowingly employ a number of behaviors that reduce their authority by denoting vulnerability or submission.

Here are 10 body-language mistakes that women leaders commonly make.

1. Using too many head tilts. Head tilting is a signal that someone is listening and involved—and a particularly feminine gesture. Head tilts can be very positive cues, but they are also subconsciously processed as submission signals. Women who want to project power and authority should keep their heads straight up in a more neutral position.

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