By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea of how to use visual language in your next speech. Reading time: 2:56
The vice president stood on stage like a sleek, well-balanced flamingo bird. Standing on one leg in front of more than 200 people, he shared his vision for a reorganized department.
“We have had people standing on one leg,” he said, making like a flamingo with a one-legged stance. “And so today I am announcing a reorganization of our department that will give more people two legs to stand on.” He planted his second leg firmly on the stage. And the audience applauded the news.
The vice president demonstrated a significant leadership skill : exercising your body language to clarifies and amplifies the words of a leader so that they more fully command attention, understood and acted upon.
Read on to learn how George Washington and Thomas Jefferson leveraged their body language to communicate effectively in dire situations.
Dons His Eyeglasses
George Washington, then General of the fledging American army, relied on his body language when his troops were too exhausted, too frustrated, and too angry to listen to his words. His troops wanted to revolt over not being paid their back salary. (Imagine telling your staff that you could not afford to pay them this week!)
Washington couldn’t do anything to give the troops their money. He knew it was futile to try to reason with his troops. Words weren’t enough. He reached into his pocket and put on his glasses. He never wore his glasses in pubic before.
He was too proud to admit that his eyes were failing him. His troops were surprised to see their leader allowing himself to be less than perfect in public. Washington collapsed into a chair and said wearily: “Gentlemen I have grown old in your services and now I am growing blind.”
The guilt trip worked. The men chose not to revolt. They had too much respect for Washington who let his body speak for him.
Thomas Jefferson Sits Back Down In His Chair
Thomas Jefferson also leveraged his humanity, his vulnerability through his body language that more personally, more poignantly communicated his message far more powerfully than words.
Jefferson, the former president of the United States now serving in his role as the founder of the University of Virginia, got up to make a speech to the University’s Board. Jefferson was frustrated and angry. Rowdies had taken over the dorms of the University and turned them into gambling rooms.
Jefferson was so overcome with emotion he simply sat back down without uttering a word of his speech. The students were so moved by his emotion that they cleaned up their act.
Small wonder that body language is even more significant than sign language to the deaf, according to Lottie Riekehof, author of the Joy of Signing: “Deaf persons do not focus so much on reading each other’s hands as they do on reading the face and the overall body language.”
Indeed body language is powerful that author Ralph Waldo Emerson noted: “What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” And Sigmund Freud said no mortal can keep a secret since “betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.” Even from hardened Generals preparing for battle.
Your body speaks louder than you keeping your
leadership thinking in mint condition.
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