Saturday, January 1, 2011

Leadership Secret # 52: Keeping MAPs to a Minimum

Here, Palestinian President Mamoud Abbas is attending a Christmas Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It's a safe bet that he went there with pure motives. It's also obvious that he's in an emotional state of considerably increased anxiety. 

It's paramount for a leader to never rub, massage, scratch, touch, etc. any body part - particularly their head, face or neck. Self-touching belongs to a general group of body language gestures which are known as "Manipulators", "Adaptors" or "Pacifiers" (MAPs). In general, they are a sign of increased anxiety that is easy "felt" by others. The leader/speaker is often very unaware they are transmitting this anxiety.  In some settings (but this is NOT an example), and increase in MAPs - particularly to the face - is associated with deception-related anxiety.

Although we often self-touch in order to calm ourselves in moments of stress - the act of displaying a MAP can paradoxically set up a positive feed-back loop and produce even more anxiety.  It's a difficult act to curtail and even the most experienced will slip into this all-to-human default.  Mr. Abbas has many years of public appearances and yet he commits this leadership faux pas. If you want to be confident and project confidence, keeping MAPs to an absolute minimum is a must. How often do you send these messages of anxiety? 

Are you sure?