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How leaders influence followers through the use of nonverbal communication

Linda Talley (Jones International University, Houston, TX, USA)
Samuel Temple (Group O, San Antonio, TX, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to address the relationship between a leader’s use of nonverbal immediacy (specific hand gestures) and followers’ attraction to the leader. This study provides initial evidence that certain hand gestures are more effective than others at creating immediacy between leaders and followers.


In an experimental study, participants (male=89; female=121) were shown one of three videos of an actor, as leader, using three positive hand gestures, three defensive hand gestures, and no hand gestures, which have not been previously operationalized (and were grouped arbitrarily by the experimenter). Three hypotheses were tested using a 3×2 ANOVA (by group and gender) for main and interactional effects.


The independent variable, positive hand gestures (M=2.4), was perceived by participants as more immediate than the other two independent variables, defensive hand gestures (M=−19.2) or no hand gestures (M=−21.6). Analysis of data indicate that participants perceived leaders with no hand gestures and defensive hand gestures to be distant or non-immediate and the leader with positive hand gestures to be more immediate or attractive.

Research limitations/implications

This study is limited as a pilot study establishing differences between specific hand gestures for the first time.

Practical implications

The research provides initial evidence that the hand gestures arbitrarily defined as “positive” create more immediacy between the followers and the leader than usage of “negative” gestures and no gestures.

Social implications

The current research can act as a motivator for leaders to fast forward relationships with followers through the use of specific hand gestures.


The results suggest the possibility that some hand gestures are more effective than others.



Talley, L. and Temple, S. (2015), "How leaders influence followers through the use of nonverbal communication", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 69-80.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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