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Two Lessons in Leadership

lessons in leadership

Two Lessons in Leadership that any leader should learn.

One of the first lessons we learn in becoming a leader is the skill of eye contact.

Eye contact is something that everyone should learn but few practice. There is power in the eyes of the beholder. The one that can maintain eye contact usually wins.

I am not suggesting that we have staring contests with everyone we meet. That would just be creepy and make others uncomfortable. However when you introduce yourself to someone look them in the eye.

Someone that cannot provide eye contact automatically I think they have something to hide. If you don’t look me in the eye you will likely not earn my business or trust. Trust is what earns business and eye contact garners trust.

I find it awkward when you are talking to someone and they look everywhere else but at you. That can make someone feel insecure like they have something in their teeth or worse. It is also distracting and causes the appearance of disinterest.

There is a level of eye-contact that is sufficient as well. It is a bit unnerving when someone locks eyes for minutes at a time, even after you looked away. I had a conversation with a co-worker earlier this week that I swear they had eye lock for the entire conversation. So as with anything else, moderation is a key element.

This also applies to complete strangers that pass each other by. I have noticed that rather than eye contact the majority of people will look away. If you look away the likelihood someone will engage you even in a simple hello are slim. We wonder why our society is declining when we cannot even look at one another.

The second of leadership lessons that has lost some of its luster is the art of a firm handshake.

It is amazing when you walk into a meeting, interview or social gathering and are greeted by a dead fish shake. A firm handshake says a lot about a person. A handshake exudes confidence and security as well as outright manliness. That does not mean you should try to break the other persons hand. You should however shake it like you mean it.

I am not sure where it became acceptable for guys to shake hands limp-wristed, or just using their fingertips. I personally am a bit of a germaphobe and don’t enjoy shaking hands, however you will know if you shook mine.

There are some tricks to the handshake to keep in mind. If your hands are dirty, be considerate of the other person. Maybe you are nervous, dry them on your pants or in your pocket before you smear your sweat all over the place. If you are sick, tell me before not after. Lastly look me in the eye when you shake my hand and mean it.

One other key about a handshake, they should be firm, hand to hand four fingers and a thumb. Some people use two hands when shaking, I am not a fan but it is okay in some situations. Shake the other persons hands for a couple of seconds and let go! Those that linger on a handshake are about as creepy as those that stare too long.

Once you have mastered the two keys of eye contact and a firm handshake you will be well on your way. A man who can introduce themselves and look you in the eye when they firmly shake your hand will get more respect than one that does not.

The days of  leaders being able to get away with limp handshakes and no eye contact need to end. We need to instill in not only the younger generations but also our own generation the key lessons of leadership. Leadership goes beyond the borders of the boardroom and exists in our homes, churches and communities as well.

Now its your turn : Go out there shake hands and give genuine eye contact.  What other simple leadership lessons do you think garners respect as a handshake or eye contact does? Please share your comments below

About Charles Johnston

Charles is a Christian, husband and father of fur-kids who shares his walk with others in hopes to help other's along the way.

11 Replies

  1. You’re right that in the age of e-mail, the basics of social graces (and their fundamental importance) can get lost in the shuffle. It’s always a good reminder that having an air of confidence makes you not only seem more authoritative to others, but gives you that subconscious boost of actual confidence as well. It’s a fake it till you make it type philosophy, but it works!

    1. People would rather exchange phone numbers so they can text one another than shake hands and actually talk to one another. Thanks for your comments Mary.

  2. Totally agree, Charles! these are so often overlooked

    1. Thanks for stopping by Mike!

  3. Eye contact for me used to be an issue.. but i agree that is one thing in leadership that is a must..

    1. I agree even though I learned it young,my confidence sometimes makes it difficult.

  4. I like to call the limp handshake the “wet noodle.” How awkward is it when just the fingertips touch? Very….

  5. Having lived most of my life as a corporate slave, I can pretty much distinguish a true leader than one that is just pretending to be one.
    In my own little world, I practice leadership by doing the “walk the talk” (Leadership by example model) and the “criticize in private, praise in public.” (Coach vs. Counsel)

  6. Melodi Steinberg

    Great post! I think some people are naturally born with leadership qualities!

  7. I think I will make my 12 year old read this. We struggle with her looking us in the eye during conversations, but I agree with you on just how important it is. So, for me, it’s worth the effort to encourage it.

  8. I used to run a lab course at a university, and one of the things it taught me about leadership is that a real leader is someone who can simultaneously juggle the past, present, and future. Conversely, show me someone who only lives in the present and I’ll show you a follower.