The media often portrays effective leaders as powerful speakers that are able to use their words to inspire followers.  Coaches give inspirational speeches to their team when they are losing at halftime so that they can come back and triumph.  Politicians use moving words to help their countries overcome a crisis. You get the picture.

Since these images are etched in our minds it isn’t surprising that aspiring leaders feel the need to match that expectation.  Many today feel that the key to being an effective leader is being able to deliver an effective, powerful and inspirational speech to your team.  While effective presentation skills are very important, you can actually influence your team as their leader without uttering a single word.  Here’s how:

The Present of Your Presence

Your team is greatly influenced by your leadership just through your presence: how you show up to them each day.  Showing up authentically will reassure them that you are who you appear to be and that you take your team and the work you do seriously.  But if you are perpetually distracted or disinterested, or come across as pompous or arrogant, will they still take you seriously as a leader?  Your mere presence and visibility each day is a powerful influencer.

Focus on Your Physical Reflection

Another important element of leadership without using words is based on what you see when you look in the mirror. Based on your appearance and demeanor, would you want to follow you?

When you stand in front of a mirror, you are getting a front row seat of the show that your team is going to be viewing for the entire day.

Your appearance, facial expressions and body language are often subtle but powerful influencers because (1) they are contagious: mirror neurons in the minds of your team pick up on subtle non-verbal cues and tend to emulate them and (2) you set the standard for team members in their appearance and professionalism.

Mastering the Art of Consistency

There are always going to be those leaders that are viewed as roller coasters to their teams.  When the tracks of their business are heading up, they are up but when the tracks of their business are heading down, they are down as well.

An effective leader cannot allow changing circumstances and events to determine their perspective, attitude and overall approach to their job.  They need to be consistently positive and realistically upbeat to influence their teams to do the same.  Regardless of the circumstances, you need to become known as the epitome of consistency so team members know your performance expectations have not changed with the tide.

Put it All Together

True leadership is not found only in the words of an inspirational speech or personal conversation.  You have to be effective as a leader even before you open your mouth.  How is that possible?  Your presence, physical reflection and overall consistency each day will speak volumes about your level of effectiveness as an influential leader without even saying a single word.

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Mark Sanborn
About Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change. Mark Sanborn graduated cum laude from The Ohio State University. In addition to his work as a business educator and author, Mark continues to be an active leadership practitioner. Most recently he served as the president of the National Speakers Association.

3 Responses to How to Influence without Using Words
  1. Thanks for sharing this insight, Mark.

    While reading your blog post I was reminded of Jim Collins’ definitions of Level 5 Leaders being humble, quiet, and often reserved. Rarely were they (at least according to his studies) charismatic and loud. Collins explains that the best leaders lead with their actions and their mind, not their personality.

    Thanks for sharing this insightful blog post and good luck with the launch of Fred 2.0.

  2. Yes, on the leadership context, depending on its background and nature of the leadership. Therefore, the true leader can not say by himself, saying that I’m an effective leader. Nevertheless, an effective leader, walk as a leader, talk as a leader, wear as a leader, a good leader seen by other through his emotionally, and action, and also how to solve the problem in the society.
    A leader with good character, a good leader with action can use CARROTS AND STICKS meaning that he, can punish and reward his subordinate.


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