• Joanna Barclay

Non-Verbal Leadership

How much of leadership do you think is non-verbal?

When it comes to making decisions, how aware are leaders of their body language and the way they communicate?

Consider for a moment the impact the leader has on workplace culture and the way people interact with each other. A large part of workplace culture is created by the leaders and how they show up. Why? Because leaders model the values and behaviours which are considered acceptable and copied by everyone.

Think about the facial expressions of smiling or frowning, raised eyebrows, and rolling eyes. What messages are these cues giving to people? Body language and the physical presence of the leader are non-verbal and have a huge impact on how others will interact.

The physical energetic presence of the leader has a psychological impact. Remember a time when a leader walked into the room with force and assurance versus a mindful approach attentively listening to you with their full attention. How did this presence impact the mood in the room?

My greatest concern in the work we do assessing workplace culture is the awareness leaders have for their non-verbal leadership cues. It’s the main reason we developed our new Conscious Leadership with Horses workshop to give leaders an experiential learning experience. Our goal is to develop relational leadership, team-building and communication skills.

We co-facilitate with horses because horses are masters in social intelligence and non-verbal communication skills. Set in nature at Willaway Farm (Where this is a will there is a way) in Almonte, Ontario, leadership team members learn experientially how to address cognitive, physical and social challenges.

All of these skills relate to emotional intelligence and being able to tune into the energetic emotional field that is required to build connection and trust in the workplace. To develop these skills takes conscious (with intention) awareness and commitment to personal transformation.

I once had a leader exclaim – “If I knew how much work this would be I’d never have started. However, now that I’ve started, I don’t want to stop!”

The Cultural Values Assessments we use to prepare for cultural transformation, provide valuable data on the values and behaviors that motivate people, the current culture (both positive and what was limiting engagement) and their desired workplace culture. All of this information is incredibly powerful in preparing change management plans to transform organizational culture.

However!!! And this is a biggie! Unless the leader is prepared to also change and be the change staff are looking for, no change is likely to take place. The reason for this is the leaders need to be the change people are looking for. They need to change first and model all the new behaviours. To make these changes takes commitment to personal transformation.

Organizations do not change! It’s the people in them who do!

A large part of personal transformation is strengthening emotional intelligence. Discovering who you are, how you are showing up, and the impact you are having on others. This is what makes non-verbal communication as a leader so important.

The need for greater focus on emotional intelligence is two-fold:

  • Most leaders have high IQ. This is what got them to the head of the pack in the first place.

  • They know what to do and why. Their strengths are in the head.


What is missing is EQ. The how. Values such as Compassion, Authenticity, Relationship building, and Empathy. These values are the language of the heart. They also happen to be the key elements in building the connection and trust needed when leading strategic change.

This is why 70% of change leaders fail. They focus on the head, the what and why, and not the how, the heart.

We are proud to announce our new Conscious Leadership Program on our new and improved website. It has five elements to develop conscious, values-based leadership.

  1. Masterclass in How To Build a High Performing Workplace Culture

  2. Cultural Transformation 101 for Leadership Teams – 360 Values Assessments for Leaders and a values assessment for the Leadership team

  3. Conscious Leadership With Horses Workshop – Non-Verbal, experiential learning to enhance relational leadership, team-building, and communication skills

  4. Group Facilitation Methods – Leadership training to facilitate a culture of participation

  5. Conscious Leadership Coaching Circles – A year-long program for leaders to learn from each other

Delivering this program is one of the reasons I moved back to Canada. Singapore was just too hot for a native Canadian. People think I’m crazy, but I really missed the winter and experiencing the four seasons. On my birthday in January I bought my first horse, Ty, a real connector. The first in our Conscious Leadership herd.


Much love,

Joanna (& Ty)

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