Introduction - The Leadership-Body Language Connection

Recognizing that communication skills are critical to leadership, many leaders prepare and rehearse for critical speeches and presentations, crafting a message carefully and ensuring it will be delivered. Unfortunately, the audience has often evaluated the credibility, confidence, likability, and trustworthiness within seven seconds of the speaker taking the stage, often before he has a chance to speak the first word of his carefully-prepared presentation.

Much of this happens "subliminally" and without intentional effort: people are simply wired to form very quick impressions of others based on their posture, movement, gestures, and appearance. It's all very superficial, but all very important. Having "the right moves" is no substitute for having the right ideas - but having the wrong moves will cause your ideas, and yourself, to be taken less seriously than you would prefer.

Your ability to accurately read and respond to the body language of others is critical to building empathy and rapport: to send the wrong signals, or misread someone else's, can lead you to take bold steps in the wrong direction. And since we are largely unconscious of this, it can be difficult to understand "what went wrong" when you simply failed to "click" with others.

The author is a leadership coach, specializing in body language, whose consulting involves "shadowing" leaders and observing them as they conduct their daily interactions with others, to help them pay attention to the things they do not notice, and get them to address problems they don't even know they have.

She's seen many examples of managers and leaders who are competent and intelligent people, but who lack presence - their body language suggests uncertainty and timidity, contradicts the things they are saying, and generally sends the wrong signals - and this prevents them from achieving results in organizations, as motivating others and instilling confidence are essential to gaining cooperation.

Nonverbal communication is not taught in business school, and receives only a brief mention in communications training. As a result, most people are "nonverbally illiterate" and do not understand the signals they are sending. This contributes to the notion that leaders are "born" and that there are invisible qualities that make a person suitable as a leader. But the qualities are quite visible, just ignored and poorly understood.

Some develop the ability to read and project the appropriate nonverbal signals - but for others it is no intuitive. However, it's a language, like any other, that can be learned and mastered with practice.

The Time Is Right

The author suggests that three emerging trends should cause leaders to reconsider developing their nonverbal communication skills: visual technology, advances in scientific research, and globalization.

By "visual technology" the author is referring to teleconferencing, which has long been available but did not gain popularity because of the overhead cost of equipment and facilities. Given that video cameras are a common feature of smart phones, and given that the technology to stream audio and video in real time has advanced to a sufficient level of fidelity, she predicts that users will develop a greater appetite for teleconferencing.

(EN: I disagree. Simply making an activity cheaper and easier doesn't generate demand. The existing video conferencing capabilities are largely used for non-business purposes - giving people the ability to "see" a spouse or child during a leisure conversation is something of a novelty and a way to enhance the emotional quality of communication. The trend, in general, is moving away from live communication toward time-shifted communications such as email and text messaging.)

Scientific research is another area in which there have been significant advances: computers are better able to assess factors such as expression and tone of voice to read the emotional state, yielding more accurate predictive models. Moreover, neuroscience is employing advanced imaging technology to get a detailed sense of what is going on inside the human mind, particularly in the cognitive and emotional processes.

(EN: True, but this merely means that we will soon have more accurate, or at least more scientifically sound, research into emotions and nonverbal communication. If anything, this suggests that there will be better information available in the future, and what is being said of nonverbal communication today will be questioned and in many instances considered inaccurate when the evidence is known.)

The author's third reason that leaders should take interest in nonverbal communication is that business is increasingly global. While doing business with individuals of different cultures was unusual and infrequent, it is now becoming customary and frequent - and the problems people often have in communicating with individuals of a different culture are usually nonverbal. Leaders will need to become more aware of their own signals and more attuned to the signals of others to be successful in leading a diverse workforce and collaborating with a global network of suppliers, partners, and customers.

(EN: The rest of the introduction is all marketing content: some claims about the wonderful benefits of learning about the topic of the book, and a chapter-by-chapter outline.)