EXECUTIVE PRESENCE FOR WOMEN LEADERS
I have been asked on several occasions whether the communication from a male leader and a female leader should vary, especially when it comes to nonverbal communication. In many of my articles, I have spoken extensively on the importance of both verbal and nonverbal communication, however with a bias for nonverbal communication. This is simply because nonverbal communication accounts for a greater percentage in the frequency of our communication. Extensive research has shown that the unconscious mind processes averagely 11 million bits of information per second, whereas the conscious mind does 40 bits. This may account for why many messages communicated by leaders get lost in translation and explain the misalignment in verbal communication and nonverbal communication.
The executive presence or leadership presence is a very essential aspect in the communication of a leader and relies heavily on nonverbal communication. It is felt in how you command a room full of people and how you communicate. The way you present yourself physically is also a factor. It is neither aggressive nor meek. It is a perfect balance of verbal and nonverbal communication that allows your personality to shine through and influence people to take action. The manner in which the leader speaks, the use of hand gestures, posture and many other factors highlight the level of confidence of a leader. Yet, many women leaders have suffered many challenges following the same rule book of executive presence. Unfortunately, the female gender to begin with, is not seen by many as a suitable fit for the position of leadership. There is a popular term, the Double-Blind Paradox, that explains the bias for the preference of males as leaders. As males rise in rank and status at work, they retain and often increase their perceived likeability. On the other hand, the more women project a status of power and authority, the less they are liked and the more they are ridiculed. They are told they are too aggressive, too strong in tone, too stiff etc. Mind you, these are women very capable of doing an equally great job as their male counterparts. They should be given the liberty to lead with confidence as it should be for every leader.
I must point out a few errors that we make as female leaders that may communicate the wrong message. Firstly, it is difficult to communicate confidence and power when slouching. Slouching may communicate the idea of low-self esteem or very low confidence. This may communicate the same information when you avoid eye contact. As leaders, we need to understand the sort of emotion and message we are trying to send across and mindfully communicate it through our body language. We can comfortably switch between indicators of power and competence and signals of empathy and softness.
Here are a few key reminders on how we can rightly take charge of our spaces as women leaders and in most cases, as leaders in general.
- Be Mindful
The practice of being mindful can help you to make a habit of aligning your mind and body. As I mentioned earlier, it is essential to always have your verbal and nonverbal communication aligned, and this is one way to always communicate your messages with consistency. Yoga as an exercise or meditation session, although a popular helpful practice, has not made its home as a needed and relevant exercise in Africa. I recommend these two alternatives however for anyone reading this article. Not only do they help you keep a good strong body posture, they also help you connect with every part of yourself, giving you the needed stability and clarity, needed as a leader.
- Be Visible
Many women leaders, for fear of being ridiculed and criticized choose to stay in the dark. Hiding is no way to lead. If you are not seen, you cannot share, you cannot influence and you will not be followed. Consciously be a part of your organization by establishing decent relationships with both executive and ground level members. Simply be seen in action because leadership is largely about doing.
- Be Present
There are several ways you can communicate your presence. One way is to check your posture when standing and sitting. When sitting, do not make yourself small by crossing your arms. Keep your chest area open and your shoulders straight and well rounded. When you are speaking do not avoid eye contact. Establishing the right eye contact can earn you the trust you need from the person you are speaking to.
- Be You
When you are in a position, remember you are there because you fit that position. Be nothing less than yourself while you are there. I find that many women apologize for occupying a position they are very well qualified to assume. Your language must be bold. You should avoid starting a statement with “I’m sorry” if you are not apologizing for something you did wrong. There is nothing wrong with contacting a branding coach to polish the qualities you already have.
Dear woman, I hope you know that you are enough. Take charge of your space not because you know it all or are better than anybody but because you deserve it and are capable of making the impossibilities happen. All the best! Happy Women’s Month!
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.