8 Ways to Lead Without Saying a Word

What does leadership look like? For me, the images that usually come to mind are cliche: grand motivational speeches, TED talks, success stories. Maybe even getting advice that points me in the right direction. 

Real, practical leadership, though? It usually looks a little different.

It happens when no one is looking, or listening, or even consciously paying attention. Real leadership doesn’t happen in arenas or conventions halls. Because if we’re honest and real about leadership...it doesn’t have much to do with talking. Or speeches. Or books.

If you or I or anyone else wants to lead, we have to do it when no one is listening to us. Because someone is always watching us, and those are the moments that really count.

When it comes down to the wire with your business, you lead not by words, but by example.

When it comes down to the wire with your business, you lead not by words, but by example.

Here are 8 ways to lead without words at work:

1) Get Your Own Work Done

One of the best ways to lead those around you is simply by doing your own work. Get your stuff done! Take care of things. Even if you’re at the top, being boss doesn’t mean you don’t need to hold yourself accountable for tasks. In fact, if you’re holding yourself to the same standards that you hold your employees to, it sets a better precedent for everyone. 

2) Stay Organized

Organization might not seem like a form of leadership, but it is: it’s infrastructure for you business. It’s what keeps meetings running smoothly, keeps projects and tasks from falling through the cracks, and keeps productivity—and income—optimized.

If you want to lead, organize.

3) Good Posture and a Firm Handshake

What is the image you project? Being well dressed is one element of image, but if it doesn’t come with strong, confident posture, it’s wasted. If you don’t already have practiced posture, it takes a conscious effort to correct! The same goes for a firm handshake. They both take a conscious effort and they project two things: confidence and power.

4) Eye Contact

What else projects confidence and power? Eye contact. What eye contact does that posture and handshakes don’t, however, is establish and maintain a connection. It says that you’re listening. When you’re at the top and leading, you can sometimes lose touch with the other people around you. 

Eye contact, active listening, and bringing yourself back into the world of employees and people who may not share your same pay grade is not only a way to earn respect, but to lead. 

5) Be a Team Player

Leaders are never too good to do small jobs. Leaders are okay will getting their own coffee and attending office birthday parties. They smile and stop for water cooler talk. They help out and find solutions when it’s called for. They don’t let people struggle and “figure it out themselves” just for the sake of it. 

No, leaders do what they can to both be helpful and friendly while they lead with dignity. They’re someone you respect—not someone you’re scared of.

6) Punctuality

Leaders respect the time of other people no matter who they are: whether it’s another executive or the cable guy. Leaders are on time and they keep their commitments.

It doesn’t take much initiative to be on time, alright? If we’re honest, it just means thinking ahead and being responsible. There’s no reason to not be on schedule short of an emergency.

7) Keep Your Cool

Leading without words can be a challenge. Why? Because we’re often put into situations where we have to say do what I say, not as I do. True leaders don’t fall into those situations because they’re consistent. Their actions and words line up. But there’s no time more difficult to “line up” than when emotions run high.

Leaders know how to keep their cool. Not just in words, but in their actions. They don’t raise their voices, slam doors, throw things around. They temper themselves with insight and reason so that the bigger picture takes center stage. They are a solid rock in times of trouble.

8) Mind Your Body Language

Body language comes into play in just about everything. It’s part of managing emotions. It’s part of projecting a friendly demeanor. It’s part of posture. Body language opens you up: it lets people know what’s really going on in your head. 

For instance, do you slouch and look bored in your meetings? Are you victim to resting sad/angry/serious face that can make you unapproachable? Body language matters!

In order to lead without our words, it takes a conscious effort on our part not just to monitor ourselves, but to reach out and care about other people. Really, leadership isn’t about putting yourself first: it’s looking out for the people around you. 

Each and every one of these ways to lead have compassion and a consideration for someone else—their convenience, their feelings, their comfort and success—at their core. Leaders don’t forget the value of other people.

So don’t you forget, either.