How (NOT) to Be a Leader – Large and In Charge

How Not to Be a Leader Chapter 7This week we continue the serialization of, How (Not) to Be a Leader Volume 1,in preparation for the release of the next two books, How NOT to Build a Great Team and How NOT to Create a Winning Strategy. We hope you will enjoy Chapter 7 Large and In Charge.

Sent: Monday, March 16 at 5:47 pm
From: CEO’s Desk
To: Executive Team
Subject: Investment Banker Presentation on Tues.


The folks from Gold Tower Investments will be here on Tuesday as part of their vetting process is to meet with all of you, get to know you better individually, and get a real sense of the strength and valuable contribution that each of you bring to our great company. Please be early and bring your best! Also, seating and presentation is important in this meeting, so I’ll be seated at the head of the conference table. Jim, Dave, and Bill, I’d like you on my left representing business and finance. Ladies, if you would please sit together on my right representing HR and marketing. All of you, dress for success. Ladies, NO pantsuits!

I’ll assume that we all agree I’ll answer ALL the questions, unless I specifically ask you something or turn in your direction. You need to be prepared for any and all questions when and if I call on you to answer on your own behalf. Please stay bright‑eyed and attentive as they’re expecting you to be the A team!

See you all then, and best of luck to you!

Body language and physical presentation are critical to great leadership, not only when presenting to others but also in your day‑to‑day encounters with your staff to ensure that you are at all times positioned in a way that reinforces your authority. Let’s start with body language. There are two easy words to keep top of mind: height and proximity. Studies in business books have shown that tall people emanate power and are especially fortunate to have that natural intimidation factor working in their favor. For those less fortunate (which is anyone under 5’ 9” in the United States) you will have to find ways to appear taller. For women, this means the highest heels that you can stay balanced in. Since anything under a 3” heel tends to look dowdy and age you, shoot for 3.5” and higher. Four inches is the optimal heel height to both increase your height and say, “I’m in charge and can get nasty when I need to” at the same. For men who fall short (pun intended!) of optimum power height, there’s an old adage: “When you can’t go high, go wide!” So hit the gym, bulk up, and make sure that your upper arms and shoulders are as wide and muscular as possible. This will say to everyone in the room, “I may be short, but I’ll kick your ass to get my way, and I’m so awesome that I have lots of free time to spend in the gym.” Also, shoe lifts can work, but make sure it isn’t obvious that you’re wearing them. And for God’s sake, if you have small hands, keep them under the table. No sense in advertising that! Women, if you have a decent rack, let it show! It will keep the focus on your boobs and you’re more likely to get what you want. You might as well use all your assets!

Once you have reached the optimum stature, you’ll want to work on your proximity to others. Remember that a sure‑fire way to state your position is to invade your subordinates’ personal space. After all, they are your employees: you gave them the space they are occupying, so it’s yours to claim as you see fit. When visiting a team member’s office, stand or loom over them. If you need to sit, perch on their desk near their chair so as to say, “Look only at me, and listen only to me.” Planting yourself directly on top of their working files is also a way to subliminally let them know what you think of their most recent SWOT analysis or competitive review. This will have them shaking in their boots about that upcoming performance review! Your invasion of their personal space with all parts of your body can be oppressive, which is the point. Make your people feel your presence—make them feel small and scared.

In a group setting, this dynamic is even more critical. But since you are the leader and it’s important that you arrive late to most group meetings (see Chapter 20: The Waiting Game), you may have to get creative to ensure that you have the most visible seat at the head of the table. Techniques for doing this include simply approaching the person sitting in your desired seat, looming over them, and saying nothing. This creates a healthy, natural tension that will cause them to offer you their seat at once. You can also announce that you’d like to rearrange the seating and move everyone to the seat you would like them to sit in. When meeting with investors, bankers, strategic partners, etc., make absolutely certain that you seat the most attractive team members nearest your guests (second to you, of course), but whatever you do, don’t let them speak.

Over time, you will learn the other subtleties of body language for leadership: waving your arms, slamming your palm on your desk, rolling your eyes, giving squinty stares, and making long, breathy sighs. Every body movement, or lack thereof, is powerful! These are all techniques to get your point across without wasting your words. Remember: intimidating silence is golden!

Let’s Get Real

Leaders are often the last to fully realize how their body language and interpersonal behavior is interpreted by others and how it can create an unspoken barrier between them and their colleagues. Frequently your body language is the first thing to make you appear inaccessible, dominating, or intimidating. So, remember, make meaningful eye contact when you’re listening, never stand over anyone, respect others’ personal space, and let people speak for themselves.

Great leadership means putting others before yourself and giving them the space they need to grow. Being aware of your own physical presence, your hand gestures, and your proximity to others is respectful and necessary. All of these unspoken cues will cause others to feel either intimidated or welcomed and encouraged. Be mindful of your space and how much oxygen you are giving or taking in any given setting. Others are watching closely.

Download this chapter for free – How (NOT) to Be a Leader – Chapter 7